Haunted Moon

by Stephanie Kaiser

Classification: RxA

Rating:  NC-17

Spoilers:  Yes, through season 5 and a small spoiler or two for the movie.

Keywords:  Mulder/Scully romance

Summary:  Mulder and Scully find themselves lost and in trouble one night
under a haunted moon.  But when it's all over and done, can they find love?

Disclaimer:   As much as I wish I had a hand in creating The X-Files all
rights belong to Chris Carter, 1013 Productions and Fox Entertainment.  I do
however believe that Mulder and Scully belong to David and Gillian, without
them there would be words but no soul.  Suing me would do no good, I would
just have more time to write in jail.

Additional disclaimer - I'm a shipper with a psychology degree, not a doctor
practicing medicine.  Any medical information in this story that is
incorrect -- I apologize for in advance.  Thanks Jennifer.

Author's notes:  It is embarrassing to think about how long it's taken me to
get this story written.  Thank you to Melissa who spent hours on the phone
with me setting up the plot, well I guess part of the time was spent
discussing David's attributes <g>.  Thank you too to Karen, I couldn't have
written this (or finished it for that matter) without your input and your
support.  And thank you to Nancy and Jennifer, editors extrordinaire!  I
rely on your comments, ideas and your loyalty.  I am blessed with the
editing circle that I have, and I know it!

You may have noticed the lower case *x* in the classification of this story.
This is my first 'x-file' and it isn't technically a Halloween story, but it
gets a little creepy.  It's a good story to be posting this week, when the
black cats are on the prowl, the witches are heating their cauldrons and the
ghosts are having their sheets dry-cleaned in preparation for all Hallow's

I hope you enjoy the story.  Any comments can be sent to:

Haunted Moon

    She probably would have been more amused by this whole situation
but her ass was really starting to hurt.  They had spent two and a half
hours on an airplane and the past three hours driving around, in her
opinion, aimlessly on the back roads somewhere in Wisconsin.

    Sometimes Scully really wondered why she was always so willing to
pack a bag and chase all over the country with her partner.  Her
partner.  She turned her head and studied Mulder's profile.  A familiar
sense of warmth spread through her, beginning in her heart and surging
throughout her body.  Then she remembered why.

    He felt her eyes on him.  He was always amazed at how physically aware
they were of each other.  All she had to do was enter a room and he
instantly knew she was there.  Professionally, it had saved their lives on
many different occasions.  Personally, he sometimes wished that *every* part
of his body wasn’t so responsive to her.  Evidence of her effect on him was
beginning to manifest, and he was quickly becoming physically aroused.  He
took a deep breath and readjusted his position in the seat, trying not to
further draw her attention.

     Mulder shifted in his seat and she turned to face the window,
trying to hide the smile forming on her lips.  His ass hurt too.  Good.
He was lost.  He hadn't admitted it yet, but he was lost.  It wasn't that
Mulder never did anything wrong -- he did.  It was just that usually when
Mulder screwed up, her fierce sense of loyalty prevented her from rubbing
it in.  Tonight, they were alone, he was lost, and she was going to enjoy
it.  She just wished her own stubborn streak would allow her to get more

    He wasn’t oblivious to her.  He knew she was growing impatient.  He had
pushed his luck as far as he thought he was able too.  It was time to admit
defeat.  Scully turned her attention back to Mulder as he slowed the car
and pulled to the side of the road.  He put the car in park, his eyes
purposely staying forward.

    "Go ahead Scully."

     "Go ahead what?"  She asked innocently.  "Go ahead and maybe
point out that you have no idea where we are going and haven't for the
last hour."

    "And."  He might as well let her get it completely out of her system.

    "And...If you had listened to me forty minutes ago we probably
wouldn't be lost."  She stated, crossing her arms smugly and leaning back
into her seat

    "Anything else?"

     "Not right now," she began, seriously considering his question, "but I
reserve the right to comment on the subject later."

    "I'm disappointed in you Scully.  You forgot to mention that not
only did I get us lost, but I've been driving in circles."

    "Circles?"  Scully looked out the car window at the surrounding
area.  They were on a dirt road surrounded by fences, trees, and fields.
It had all begun to look the same to her.  "How can you tell?"

    "I recognize that cow,"  he said dryly, pointing out her
passenger window at the cow standing behind the fence next to the road.

    "Mulder,"  she sighed, shaking her head.  She reached forward to
open the glove box.  Pulling out the map, she unfolded it and spread it
out across the dash board in front of them.  "What was the last main road
you remember seeing?"

    "County W, but that was over an hour ago."

     Scully studied him for a moment becoming slightly suspicious as
Mulder leaned forward to study the map.  She pulled the paper away from
his gaze.

    "Well this isn't going to help."  She said answering the
questioning look on his face.  "If we've been lost for over an hour, a
map isn't going to do us any good.  It's getting dark, we need to drive
toward lights."

    "Lights?  You been hanging around me too long Scully?"  He said with a
touch of humor.

    "Not lights in the sky, Mulder.  Town or city lights, on the
ground.  My roommate in med. school grew up in the mid-west, she had no
sense of direction.  When she would get lost, she would drive toward
lights, figure out what town she was in and go on from there."

     Mulder hesitated for a moment before putting the car in gear and
driving forward.

    "Lights it is.  This roommate of yours Scully...don't tell me she
became a surgeon."

    "She's a brilliant neurosurgeon, just don't ask her which way is north."

    "That's reassuring."

    "So, if we've been driving in circles the logical thing to do
would be to turn off on a road we haven't been on before."

    "Pick a road, any road."

    An unfamiliar uneasiness briefly spread through her and again she
closely scrutinized her partner.

    "I'm just trying to help you out Scully.  Imagine how much you'll
be able to gloat if you're the one that figures out where we are."

    "Are you feeling all right, Mulder?"

    "Just tired of driving in circles.  What road should I turn onto?"

    She watched him for a moment and then turned her attention to the
problem at hand.  There was a road coming up on the left that appeared to
be well marked, at this point that was a good sign.  She pointed ahead.

    "Try that one, it looks like it climbs that hill.  We'll be able
to get a better idea of where we need to head."

    Mulder slowed the car and turned onto the road Scully had
indicated.  Their silence became comfortable again and she leaned her
head back and closed her eyes.


    His voice was soft, soothing.  She nodded.

    "Maybe you should..."

    Mulder's voice was cut short by two violent hissing explosions.  Scully
was thrown forward in her seat, the seatbelt snapping her back forcefully.
She could barely hear herself think above the noise of splaying gravel as
Mulder fought to control the spin of the car and bring it to a stop.

    When the car was no longer in motion, Scully let out a long deep breath
as she pulled the taut seatbelt away from her body.  Mulder turned to her in
concern, seeing her massage her shoulder where the seatbelt had restrained

    "Are you all right, Scully?"

    She turned her head and met the worry in his eyes.  She nodded.  Mulder
tilted his head and glanced at her shoulder and then back to her eyes.  She
nodded her head again slowly.  Their eyes held onto one another until she
looked away and fumbled to remove her seatbelt.

    "What the hell happened, Mulder?"

    "I don't know."

    Mulder was out of the car first and saw that the front driver's
side tire was blown.  A jagged tear separated the rubber.

    "Flat tire."  He reported to Scully as she stepped out of the car.

    "Two flat tires."  She corrected viewing the front tire on her
side of the vehicle.


    Mulder walked to her side of the car and examined the tire that
appeared to be identical to the one on the left side.  He crouched down
and explored the damaged surface of the tire with his hands.  Before long
he stood to face her, triumphantly holding a small but effective metal
spike.  Scully took the spike from him and watched as he moved back to
the driver's side of the car.  He began to examine that tire and within
minutes he produced another metal spike.

    "Someone around here is certainly friendly."

    Mulder handed her the other spike, he began to walk back to where
the car's skid marks started.  Scully followed him and watched him push
the gravel around with his foot.

    "Do you think that someone did this on purpose?"

    "I don't know that much about farm equipment but I somehow doubt
that metal spikes would fall freely from a tractor."  He bent down and
ran his fingers over the dirt and pulled up two more spikes that had been
hidden among the gravel.  Mulder handed the spikes to Scully and pulled
his cell phone out of his jacket pocket.  He pushed a few buttons and
studied it for a moment before shoving it back into his pocket.

    "Damn.  No signal."  Mulder walked back to the car and opened the rear
door and grabbed their coats and a flashlight.  Slamming the car door he
tossed her the jacket.

    "I hope you're in the mood for a romantic moonlit stroll."  He pulled
his jacket on and stopped to help her on with her coat.  "Do you have your

    She nodded silently and took her place next to him as he began to walk
down the road in the direction that they had been heading.

     It was a beautiful night, a bit chilly though.  Scully kept her hands
snugly in the pockets of her coat, trying to protect them
from the briskness of the air.  A full moon hung low in the sky and
seemed to illuminate all that it touched.  Night had completely fallen,
yet Mulder hadn't needed to turn on the flashlight.  Moonlight guided
their journey.  A gentle wind directed nature's symphony, supplying a
constant rustling of dried leaves, the sound of rippling water from a
nearby pond and the occasional howling of the moving air itself.

    Something wasn't right.  It had begun to bother her in the car,
and she just hadn't been able to put her finger on the source of her
uneasiness.  She thought back to what had prompted her suspicion and
began to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

    "Mulder?"  She looked over at the man walking next to her, making
sure she had eye contact before she continued.  "You don't get lost.
We've been partners for five years and you've never gotten us lost."

    "There's a first time for everything.  Sorry *my* ability to
detect which way is north failed us in the middle of nowhere."

    She tried to read the expression in his eyes and on his face but
found herself unable to.  Damn, sometimes she wished this man had come with

    She stopped walking and watched as Mulder took two steps forward
and then turned to face her.

    "I don't think so."  She hesitated until she saw a faint trace of
Mulderguilt pass over his face.  "I'm not saying we're not lost.  It was
obvious by the way you were looking at the map that you don't know where
we are.  Every time we go out in the field, you've always been very
meticulous about where we're going and how we're going to get there.  The
first time I even attempted to make the travel arrangements, you changed

    "Are you saying I have control issues, Scully?"  His voice
betrayed the humor he was finding in her dissection of his character.

    "I'm saying, you usually don't leave a lot to chance.  So, that
means--you turned off the main road and set about getting us lost on

    He walked toward her and put his hand on the small of her back,
gently propelling her forward to fall into step next to him again.

    "Would I do something like that?"  He asked feigning innocence.

    "In a minute, if it somehow served your purpose."

    "Scully, you wound me."

    "Not in the last few hours, but the night's still young.  Mulder,
what are we doing here?  What about this latest case requires that we
get lost in Wisconsin?"

    "Nothing specifically."  He answered almost sheepishly.  "I was
following up on a hunch."

    "A hunch?  You told me we were investigating a missing persons case."

    "I did some digging and contacted the sheriff who requested the
help of the bureau.  It turns out that multiple people traveling
through this area have been reported missing in the last two months."


    "Eight couples."

    "Sixteen people?  In two months?  Why wasn't the bureau notified
before this?"

    "No one's proven that this is the exact area where they've
disappeared.  It's only been verified that they would have passed through

    "Why did we have to get lost?"

    "The last couple that disappeared had a cell phone that worked.
They called the local authorities asking for help because they were
unfamiliar with the area and needed directions.  That was the last time
anyone heard from them.  Did you notice, Scully?  We really are in the
middle of nowhere.  There are no houses, we hadn't passed another car
since we turned off the main road and no one has driven by since we
started walking.  None of these roads are marked.  The only road that had
a sign was the one we turned onto."

    "A road with metal spikes hidden on it."


    "Why didn't you tell me this earlier?  Why didn't you just tell
me your theory?"

     "You think *I* have control issues?"  This time Mulder was the one
to stop walking.  He stood in front of her, forcing her to stop also.
"Chance isn't exactly your middle name either.  It's why we work so well

    He quickly turned and began walking again before she could
reply.  Before long he heard her footsteps behind him.  He slowed his
pace, letting her catch up.

     "That's your theory on why we work so well together?"

     He looked over at her and smiled devilishly.

    "I thought it would sound sexist if I said it was because you
looked a lot better in a skirt than my last partner."

    Scully turned her face and pointedly stared into his eyes, dropping her
chin and conveying directly with her eyes exactly what she thought of his
attempt at humor.  He grinned at her glare and chuckled softly under his
breath.  Silently he picked up his pace.  Silently she stayed by his side.

     Over the last five years they had developed their own specialized
vocabulary.  A raised eyebrow had become their noun,  a simple touch
replaced a verb and there wasn't an adjective in the world that could
compete with a glance into one another's eyes.  This language wasn't always
effective, but it was theirs.

    Scully hugged her arms around her waist and scanned the area, it still
looked the same as it had when they had started walking.  Even after
discovering that Mulder's failed sense of direction was purposeful, the
earlier sense of uneasiness still plagued her.

    "Something still doesn't feel right."

    "It's that time of the month."

    Scully looked at him in disbelief, her steps slowing and her hands
moving to rest on her hips.  Mulder stopped and turned to face her, slightly
confused for a moment at her obvious irritation, before a slow, full grin
spread across his face.

     "No.  I was referring to the moon, Scully."  He pointed directly
ahead of them into the sky.  "It's a full moon.  People have been known
to experience strange or abnormal feelings and behavior when the moon is

    "A haunted moon."  She stated reflectively as she began walking along
the road again.

    "What?"  Mulder asked falling into step with her.

    "When we were little my brother used to try and scare Melissa and
I on nights there was a full moon.  He used to tell us that when the moon
was full all the evil of the world was unleashed to haunt the earth.  He
called it a haunted moon."

    "You believed him?"

    "I was six."  She justified.  "It was about six months before I
would go outside on a night when there was a haunted moon."

    "Are you trying to tell me that if your brother hadn't scared you
as a child you would be more open to my ideas?"

    "Mulder, I've always been very open to your ideas."

    Mulder stopped walking and raised his eyebrow questioningly at her.

    "Must be an example of that abnormal behavior you were telling me
about earlier."  She smiled.

    "If you begin to experience any other impulses to behave in an
abnormal fashion, let me know."

    "You'll be the first,"  she promised.

    They continued to walk.  The wind was beginning to grow much
stronger and clouds began to swirl menacingly in the sky.  Mulder turned
on the flashlight to light the road they walked.  Occasional bursts of
lightning assaulted the sky.

    "Scully, I think we're about to get very wet."

    "There has to be a house or a barn around here somewhere."

    They reached the top of the hill they were climbing when another
flash of lightning illuminated the area.

    "Did you see that?"  She asked walking rapidly forward.

    "See what?"

    "I think there's a house, down there on the left."

    The clouds that had been hiding the moon separated and the valley
below was temporarily visible.  Mulder and Scully scanned the area, both
coming to realize that the only shelter available was a large, dark, rundown
farm house looming at the bottom of the hill.  The moon disappeared again
behind the clouds.  The wind began to howl and Mulder was forced to yell
above the sound to be heard.

     “What do you think?”

    “I don’t think we have another choice.  We’ll never make it back to the
car before the storm hits.”

    Mulder reached out, taking Scully’s hand.  They began to run down the
hill.  Large droplets of rain fell from the sky and deafening booms of
thunder threatened from above.  Scully ran blindly, trusting Mulder’s lead
as she did her best to shield her face from the shards of  rain that beat
against her skin.  She felt herself being led from the road and she looked
up to see where they were.  The sight in front of her stopped her cold in
her tracks.

    The house that they had gotten a glimpse of from the top of the hill now
towered above her.  The house emitted an impression of foreboding ruin.
Melissa had always told her that certain places or objects could give off an
essence.  She hadn’t believed her, until now.

    The structure stood two stories high and was encompassed in darkness.
Its windows were boarded, as if to keep whatever was contained within from
escape.  Twisted, tangled vines clung to the exterior, the wind seeming to
bring them to life as they reached out from the walls.  Dead trees stood
guard, launching their own attack against the outer surface of the wooden
frame.  A broken sidewalk crawled to the sagging porch that sat in wait for

    Mulder felt the tug on his arm and turned to see why she had stopped.
Noticing that the color had drained from her face, he took a step closer,
trying to guard her from the pelting storm.

    “We’re almost there.  What’s wrong?”

    She shook her head, indicating nothing.  Taking the lead, she followed
the shattered trail of cement toward the abandoned house.

    The overhang of the porch protected them from the rain and the two
agents took a moment to shake the excess of water off their clothes.  Mulder
reached for the doorknob and Scully quickly put her hand over his to stop
him.  He turned to face her and was surprised at the intensity of emotion he
found in her eyes.

     “I think we’re fine right here.  I don’t think we need to go in.”

    “What’s going on, Scully?  This storm looks like it’s here to stay for
awhile.  I know this place isn’t The Ritz but it’s got to be dryer and
warmer inside than it is out here.”  He took her hands in his and began to
rub them, trying to restore some warmth.  “You’re freezing.  We need to go
inside.”   He kept her hands in his and looked directly into her eyes.

    “Mulder...” she hesitated and dropped her eyes, so that she was staring
at their feet.  “This place gives me the creeps.”

    “Please explain to me the scientific nature of the creeps.”

    Scully quickly raised her gaze, ready to tell Mulder exactly what path
he could take to Hell; when she saw the look of pure joy and satisfaction on
his face, the look of warmth in his eyes and the small grin shaping his
lips.  She shook her head in resignation.

    “You’ve been waiting awhile to use that one, haven’t you?”

    “Yes I have.”  He answered proudly.  "Scully, it's just a big dark
house, nothing else."  His voice dropped and gently he reminded her with his
eyes that he would be right there by her side.

     She knew he was trying to appease her fear, and although his intentions
were honorable she felt as though she were three and he was trying to
convince her there wasn’t a monster under her bed.  He squeezed her hands,
waiting for a sign from her whether or not to open the door.

    “Fine.  We’ll go in.”  She conceded.  Mulder had spent the last five
years protecting her from the monsters.

    She knew he wasn’t about to let any of them get to her now.

--- ---

    The door slowly crawled open, the protesting scream from the rusted
hinges announcing to whatever waited within that there were visitors.
Mulder cautiously stepped inside using the flashlight to take a thorough
inventory of the darkened interior of the house.  His grip on Scully's hand
tightened in a reassuring squeeze.

    Scully stepped inside the house.  It was so dark, without the flashlight
she was certain that she wouldn't even have been able to see her hand
in front of her face.  Her eyes followed the beam of light.  They were in a
hallway.  Battered steps leading to an upstairs were on the left.  The
hallway was long and traveled the length of the house, several closed doors
branching off from it.  She followed Mulder into the room on her right.  As
far as she could tell it had once been a large family room.

    Dust and cobwebs covered every visible surface.  Sheets draped the few
pieces of furniture that stood in the middle of the room.  An old fireplace
took up most of the far wall.  Lightning flooded in through the boarded up
windows and caused a deep shiver to trace its way up her spine.

    "What do you think?  A real fixer-upper."  Mulder let go of Scully's
hand and felt along the wall inside the door they had just come through.
She heard the click of a light switch being thrown, yet the room remained
bathed in darkness.

    Mulder swept the flashlight around the room again and noticed a few
candles sitting on the mantle of the fireplace.

    "Scully?  Remember this afternoon when we stopped at the diner?  You
wrote a phone number on a book of matches, because you couldn't find a piece
of paper?  Do you still have the match book?"

    Scully patted the outside of her jacket pockets and then nodded.  She
pulled the matches from the pocket.  Mulder took them from her and lit three
of the six candles that sat on the mantle.  The flames lit the room but they
also cast ominously moving shadows onto the empty walls.

    "I feel like I walked into an episode of Scooby Doo," he grinned at her
as he turned off the flashlight and pulled the sheet off of the couch in
front of him.  A cloud of dust sprayed the air and Scully fought the urge to

    "All we're missing is the portrait above the fireplace with the eyes
that follow you everywhere you go."

    Mulder plopped on the couch, sending up another barrage of dust.
Turning, he looked up at her in surprise.

    "Yes, Mulder, I watched Scooby Doo."

    "Did you ever wonder about that show, Scully?  Four unemployed college
aged kids traveling around the country in a recreational vehicle."

    "What's your point Mulder?"

    "Makes me wonder what exactly was in all those Scooby snacks."

    Scully wandered around the room getting a closer look at where they
would be spending the next hour or two until the storm passed.  Having an
analytical conversation about an animated program she watched as a child
would have probably seemed out of the ordinary if she had been with anyone
but Mulder.  At least they had moved away from the topic of Betty Rubble's
bust line.  The way his mind worked always mystified her.  He was a
brilliant profiler, had amazing attention for detail, and was probably one
of the most intelligent men she had ever known.  Yet here they were
discussing a talking dog who chased after fake ghosts.  Fake ghosts?

    "I'm surprised you liked Scooby Doo, Mulder.  Nothing they ever chased
after was real.  Not the lake monster, the Indian spirit, or any of the
ghosts.  It was always people dressed in costumes or video projection

    "What can I say..." he shrugged.  "I had a thing for Daphne."

    "Daphne?  She wasn't exactly the most intellectually stimulating of the

    "I must have had a soft spot for red heads way back then too,"  he
stated smoothly, just a hint of promising suggestion in his tone.  "Stop
pacing, come sit down."

    Scully scanned the eerie room again before sitting down next to Mulder.
Mulder watched as she attempted to settle her nerves.  Her hands twisted
around the fabric of the coat he had thrown across the back of the couch
cinching it with a death grip.  She checked over her shoulder, first in one
direction and then turning her head she checked the other side.


    Her attention remained preoccupied with surveying the darkness.

    "Scully," he repeated more loudly, causing her to jump a little and
slide closer to him.


    Normally he would have grinned at making her jump, but Scully wasn't
acting normal.

    "What's wrong?"  He asked, softening his voice and wrapping his arm
around her shoulders attempting to make her feel protected.

    "I don't like not knowing where we are and not having access to a phone
or a vehicle.  Sixteen people have been reported missing.  We should have
been more prepared."

    His gaze held hers, but she saw his eyes cloud over.

    *Shit*, she thought reproachfully, mentally cringing.  "Mulder..."

    "You're right, Scully.  We should have been more prepared.  I was
anxious to get out in the field and I did it again."

    "You did what again?"

    "I woke you up at the crack of dawn and dragged you across the country."

    "We were following a case, Mulder."  She had unleashed the Mulderguilt
and now it was up to her to appease it.

    "You haven't gotten any sleep.  It's no wonder you're about ready to
jump out of your skin."

    "I'm fi...."

    "Of course you're fine," he interrupted before she could finish the
standard retort she used whenever she was anything but fine.  "I slept on
the plane and I know for a fact that you didn't."

    Mulder removed his jacket from her hands and bunched it up in his lap.

    "This storm doesn't sound like it's going to let up anytime soon.  Why
don't you lay your head down and rest.  I'll wake you when the storm is

    Scully looked from his eyes down to where he expected her to 'lay her
head' then back up to his eyes.

    "No Mulder," she stated firmly, attempting to edge away from him as she
spoke.  His arm around her shoulders held strong and he began to use that
arm to urge her to lay her head in his lap.

    Scully realized she had two choices, she could fight him and probably
end up clumsily sprawled in his lap making them both angry and uncomfortable
or she could relent and allow him to satisfy his guilt and try to comfort


    In one quick motion she twisted onto her side and swung her legs up onto
the end of the couch and oh so carefully rested her head on his jacket.  Her
eyes faced the fireplace and she could still look around the room.  It
wouldn't hurt if she pretended to sleep for a while until the storm had

    Mulder's arm that had been around her shoulders hung awkwardly in the
air.  It had seemed like a good idea at the time, after all, he had pulled
her out on a case - yet again - without giving her all the facts.  He had -
yet again - made her go an incredibly long period of time without sleep.  It
had seemed like a good idea that she should get some sleep while she could.
He didn't know how far they would have to walk when the storm let up.  It
had seemed like a good idea... but now he had Dana Katherine Scully lying
with her head in his lap and he didn't quite know what to do next.  Slowly
and gently he brought her arm down and rested his elbow in the crook of her
waist, his arm resting along hers, his hand on her shoulder.

    "Don't drool on my coat."

    "Mulder," she moved to sit up but his arm held her down with a gentle

    "Shhhh...  Close your eyes."

    She knew that was the last thing she planned on doing as her eyes
continued scanning the room.

    "Do you want me to sing to you?"

    "No, Mulder."

    "Tell you a story?"

    "No, Mulder," she sighed, shifting her weight a bit to get more
comfortable as she burrowed further into his lap.  The harder she fought to
keep her eyes open the heavier they became.  "You aren't going to fall
asleep, are you?"

    "No Scully, I'm not going to fall asleep."

    She shut her eyes, promising herself it would just be for a moment when
she felt his fingers rhythmically stroking her temple and running through
her hair.  Her eyes snapped back open.

    "When I was young,  when Samantha was only a baby, my mother used to do
this when I couldn't sleep.  It always helped me."

    Scully's breath felt trapped in her throat with her heart.  Slowly she
took a deep breath, mentally instructing herself as to what came next.

    Breathe in.

    Breathe out.

    Simple really, once you get the hang of it.  After practicing a few more
times, Scully closed her eyes and let her partner's gentle caresses lull her
to sleep.

    He felt the instant she fell asleep.  Her body relaxed and her breathing
became deeper.  His hand continued the soothing stroking of her temple, his
fingers delighting in the feel of her skin and her hair.

    The storm continued to ravage the house from outside, the wind and rain
hurling themselves against the old walls.  Mulder could hear the battle
against the structure and he briefly looked up when a small piece of wood
covering the window fell victim to the onslaught and clattered to the
floor.He quickly looked back to Scully to see if the noise had wakened her.
She remained soundly sleeping.

    His hand momentarily ceased running through her hair and took the luxury
of running over her skin, down her cheek and tracing her jaw-line.  He
didn't get very many moments like this with her.  He didn't allow himself
moments like this one.  Moments where he could just sit back and take in her
beauty without her being conscious of his observations.  They were always so
on guard, guarding against those that wished to see them fail or hurt them.
More often than not they guarded against each other.  A protective
professional barrier existed between them that had been necessary in the
beginning.  Lately it seemed that that barrier was laying in a crumbled ruin
at their feet and they were crossing it with more frequency and more
intensity each time they stepped over the once sacred wall of defense.

    There were no barriers now.  Scully slept silently in his lap, trusting
that he would protect her while she slept.  Not that his Scully would ever
admit that she needed protecting.  She was so strong, so much stronger than
he was.  His emotions he wore on his sleeve, she kept her emotions hidden.
He was the one that would usually end up being comforted in her arms.  He
would be hurt or in shock and she would encircle him with her arms until he
was stronger.  The storm outside was roaring on but an unfamiliar sense of
peace circled Mulder as he watched her sleep.  His fingers returned to her
temple and brushed her hair from her eyes.

    Did she do this?  Did she sit while she was holding him and stroke his
hair or let her fingers travel over his skin?  Did she hold her hand on his
forehead longer than usual when she was checking for fever in order to
prolong the contact between them?   The night he slept in her arms in the
woods or when they were out in the snow -- did she sit and take solace in
his breathing?  He wanted to wake her to ask her if she needed his touch as
much as he needed hers.  He watched her, her features peaceful and relaxed,
and he knew that he couldn't wake her, as much as he wanted to.  He would
have time to ask her when she woke.  His hand continued to gently stroke her
face as the storm raged on outside.

    The man watched the tender scene of the two people on the couch from a
television monitor in the sub-basement below.  His eyes glowed in excitement
and madness.  His breathing quickened as he watched the man comfort the
woman while she slept.  His pulse raced as he picked up on the deep feelings
that the man obviously held for the woman.  His pupils constricted as he
considered what this couple had in store for them.

    "They're going to be perfect," he informed the empty room as a maniacal
snicker escaped his throat.

--- ---

    The wind and the rain continued to fight for control outside the broken
house -- but inside Dana Scully was dreaming.  Fox Mulder was about five
minutes -- make that three minutes -- away from completely losing his
composure and taking her right there on the musty sofa.  She had been asleep
for a little over an hour.  The sweet torture had started soon after she'd
drifted off.

    Scully was an active sleeper.  She restlessly stretched her legs, moved
her arms and generally made his job as a human pillow uncomfortably
difficult.  The games had begun when she had turned over, so that if she
had awoken, she would have been eye to eye with his belt buckle...then
things had gotten interesting.

    She had squirmed and he had moaned.

    She had snuggled and he had groaned.

    She had wiggled and he had whimpered.

    She had twisted and he had wrapped his arms around her in a effort to
keep her from falling off the sofa.  Scully, in her state of sleep, had
taken his arms being around her as an open invitation to crawl more fully
into his lap and get more comfortable.  Her head was now tucked securely
under his chin and her ass was nestled snugly in his lap.

    His arms held her tightly.  He tried in vain to prevent any further
movement that might cause her to shift against the lower part of his anatomy
that seemed to be growing more and more interested in her unintentional

    She was quiet and Mulder breathed a sigh of momentary relief.  He
quickly realized that any movement *he* made also enhanced his own
discomfort.  Everything would be perfectly fine as long as neither of them

    A loud clap of thunder rumbled through the house and Scully tried to
physically burrow into his chest.

    "Shh...Shh..." he whispered into her hair.  His voice instantly calming

    "Mulder..."  she moaned in a deep throaty sleep-voice.

    *Jesus, Scully,* he thought cringing.  One more moan like that and he
was going to damn well finish what he had started in the hallway.

    The hallway.

    His eyes closed at the onslaught of emotions that suddenly overcame him.
Weeks had passed and yet he remembered everything as if it were yesterday.

    The hallway.

    He remembered the warmth of her skin under his hands.  His hand moved to
cup her face while she slept, as it had that day.  He remembered the
anticipation and exhilaration when he had first realized what was about
to happen.  He was going to kiss Scully.

    Her eyes had welcomed him.  Her lips had waited for him.  He had slowly
lowered his head until the heat of her breath caressed his lips.  If
he kept his eyes closed tightly enough he could almost feel her lip brush

    Damn bee!  Since that day he had added a can of bug repellent to his
list of what he never traveled without.

    He could have sworn that day -- in that hallway -- that he had seen want
in her eyes.  He had seen desire.  He had seen love.  The moment had been so
fleeting, gone so quickly, that now he wasn't sure if he had actually seen
those qualities or if his hopeful imagination had painted that look in her

    They hadn't spoken of that day since they'd returned.  She hadn't
mentioned it.  He hadn't mentioned it.  She had taken great pains not to
return to his apartment.  Communication, unspoken.  Sometimes their method
of communicating -- by not communicating -- wasn't enough.  Sometimes they
needed words.

    Scully snuggled closer and he tightened his hold on her.  She sighed,

    Maybe sometime was today -- was now.  What if he had imagined it?  What
if the love he thought he saw in her eyes was only the reflection of the
love for her in his eyes?

    It had taken five years for him to follow her into that hallway and tell
her what she meant to him.  It had taken the realization of his worst fear
for him to tell her.  The fear that she would leave him.  His head had told
him to let her go -- she'd be safer without him.  His heart had kicked him
in the gut and made him go after her.  He couldn't let her go without
her knowing the truth he'd been carrying around within himself for so very

    She had made him a whole person.  Scully had filled his mind, his heart
and his soul.  How could you let half your soul walk out the door?

    Damn bee!  He would have told her that day.  He would have told her that
he loved her after his lips had left hers, but he didn't have the chance.

    Everything from that moment until he got her back was a blur of agony.
What do you do when half your heart is missing?  You find it, or you die

    When they were back in DC, and she was safe, he had listened to his
head.  He'd told her to leave him.  He had existed for years without knowing
what it  was like to be complete, and he was willing to suffer the pain
again if it meant that she would be safe.  It would be harder now because he
knew the fulfillment that she brought him, but he would push her away if
that's what it took.  She hadn't let him.  She hadn't let him push her away.
She had stood there, taken his hand and committed herself to him and his
search -- their search -- more strongly than ever.

    He opened his eyes and looked around the candlelit room.  Where had
their search led them this time?  The middle of nowhere.  One step forward,
two steps back.  A maddening dance that had become their lives.  A dance,
that alone, he would never have survived.  Mulder dipped his head and
pressed his lips to Scully's forehead.  He had taken the first step when
he'd followed her into the hallway, the next steps would be easier.  He had
wanted to wait until she was stronger.   Then he decided to wait until they
were back into a routine at work.  Then he decided to wait until the timing
was right.  He wasn't going to wait any longer.  He needed to know if he had
imagined the love in her eyes when she looked at him that moment in the
hallway.  He needed to know if he had imagined that she had leaned forward
to meet his lips.  He needed to know if he would ever be able to hold her
like this if she were awake.

    He knew that he loved her, he needed to know if she felt the same
towards him.  When she woke up, they were going to talk -- really talk.
Eddie Van Blundht talk.  He didn't have a fire in the fireplace.  He didn't
have a bottle of wine.  The only mood music in the background was thunder
and rain, but he was there and she was there; in the past that was all they
had needed.

    He nuzzled his face into her hair and rested his cheek against her
forehead.  Mulder closed his eyes and for an instant let himself revel in
the moment.

    He was pulled out of his temporary bliss when a board above his head
creaked loudly from the weight of someone stepping on it.  His instincts
went on immediate alert.

    "Scully,"  he whispered softly, so not to startle her.

    The wood continued to protest as someone walked across the floor above.
They weren't alone in the house.

    "Scully, wake up," he spoke, still softly, but with more force.

    "What?"  She asked, having a hard time shaking the peaceful slumber that
she was in.

    "There's someone upstairs."

    "What!"  Wide-awake now, Scully jumped from his lap, paying little
attention to the fact that she had been in his lap.

    "Listen."  Mulder stood by her side and both agents were silent.  He
knew the moment that she heard the movement.  Her eyes grew big and
immediately she reached behind her, and drawing her gun.

    Mulder grabbed the flashlight from the sofa and motioned for her to
follow him into the hallway.   Quickly they moved to the bottom of the

    Scully stood quietly behind Mulder, waiting, listening.  Her patience
failing her, she stepped past Mulder and began to ascend the stairs, her gun
gripped tightly in her hands.  The rotting wood creaked loudly in protest
beneath her small feet.  She heard Mulder's footsteps behind her and her
breath caught in her throat when he reached a hand out, placing it on her

    "Scully," he whispered, turning her to face him.  With her standing two
steps above him, they were eye to eye.

    "Mulder, there's someone up there," she insisted urgently.  Her voice
matching his low whisper.

    "I know.  Scully, someone may have come in a back door trying to get out
of the rain."  The irony of the current role reversal was not lost on him.

    "Mulder.  Something is not right in this house.  I'm going to find out
what it is.  Are you coming with me?"

    She searched his eyes for a moment.  The doubt she saw there was soon
replaced by trust.

    Mulder drew his gun and motioned for Scully to keep going.

    "I'm right behind you."

    Scully gave him a quick nod and turning she continued up the stairs.

    "Be careful.  I don't know how safe these stairs are," he warned from

    She reached out, gripping the railing in case the rotting wood beneath
her feet were to give way.  A particularly loud burst of thunder shook the
house and she stopped for a moment, willing her heart rate to slow down.
Mentally scolding herself for showing any sign of weakness, Scully
straightened her shoulders and quickened her climb.

    Reaching the top, she waited briefly for Mulder.  When she felt him
behind her Scully turned the small corner at the top of the stairs and faced
the long empty hallway.  Her eyes followed the beam of the flashlight as
Mulder surveyed the area, committing a mental map of the hallway to
memory -- two doors on the left, three doors on the right and a window at
the end of the corridor.

    Scully turned to Mulder who motioned toward the door closest to them on
the right.  She nodded and took her place to the left of the door frame.
Mulder moved to the right.  Capturing Scully's gaze and focusing on the
task, Mulder reached out and took the doorknob in his hand.  Still holding
her eyes he nodded his head silently -- once, twice --  on the third
gesture he turned the door knob and pushed the door open with his foot.
Scully quickly stepped, gun drawn, into the open door frame as Mulder
flooded the small closet with light.  It was empty.

    Scully moved first, stepping to the first door on the left.  Cautiously
the agents repeated the maneuver.  The room on the left was larger, but
still empty.

    Her frustration growing, Scully began to move down the hallway to the
second door on the right side.  An ear-splitting cracking drew her attention
to the window at the end of the hall.  Unsure of the cause of the noise,
Scully aimed her weapon at the window and took a step towards it, drawn to
the eerie, unfamiliar sound.  A large branch ripped away from the tree
directly outside the window and crashed through the boarded up glass.  The
vicious wind took full advantage of the new path and whipped its way through
the hall carrying rain and broken glass.

    Scully felt the water, wind and glass hurl past her face as she tried to
cover her eyes with her arm.  Momentarily unable to see she reached out,
relieved when she felt Mulder's strong grip grasp her hand and pull her into
the open room on the left.  He quickly closed and secured the door and
directed the beam of the flashlight onto Scully.

    Her eyes still irritated, Scully tucked away her gun and used her
fingers to examine and rub the stinging area.

    "Scully, you're hurt."  Mulder holstered his weapon and put the
flashlight on the floor so that the beam of light hit the ceiling, dimly
lighting the room and casting their shadows onto the far wall.

    "I think I might have gotten something in my eyes."  She blinked a
couple of times and her vision cleared, the previous irritation gone.  "Must
have been just water."  Scully looked directly into his gaze to prove to him
that she was indeed fine.  Instead of relief she saw concern in his eyes as
he walked toward her pulling a handkerchief out of his pocket.

    "You're bleeding."  Her hands moved to search her face but Mulder was
quicker.  He gently cupped her chin and tilted her head upward.   "I think
it's just a scratch," he said soothing her as he carefully blotted the small
tear in her skin with the cloth.  "You must have been hit by a piece of
glass from the window."

    Mulder kept his hand on her cheek, applying soft pressure to the cut.
His hands on her face were so warm, so familiar.   Her heart beat a little
harder against her chest when she remembered the last time they had stood
like this.  Their bodies so close.  The moment so tender yet so charged with
possibility.  Scully looked into Mulder's eyes and knew that he remembered

    Not here.
    Not now.

    Her eyes broke away from his, wanting to look anywhere else.  Needing to
look anywhere else.   They landed on the thin trickle of blood running down
his hand.

    "Same piece of glass that hit you?"  She pulled his hand away from her
face and brought his attention to his own injury.  She stepped away from him
and pulled him closer to the flashlight so that she could get a better look
at the cut.

    "Will I live?"  He smirked.

    Choosing to ignore his remark she took the handkerchief away
from him and cleaned up his hand.

    "Do you think that's what we heard?  The tree pressing against the
boards on the window?"

    "Probably, but it wouldn't hurt to search the rest of the house."

    She nodded, a little of the intensity she felt earlier was disappearing.
Bending to pick up the flashlight a flicker of light beneath another door in
the room caught her attention.

    Scully pulled her gun.  Still bent over, she tapped on Mulder's leg to
get his attention and pointed toward the door.  She turned off the
flashlight and the room became instantly black except for the faint glow of
a lamp or candle that filtered through under the door.

    After giving her eyes a moment to adjust to the darkness, Scully moved
to the left of the door frame.  She heard Mulder move to the right.

    "Hand me the flashlight," he whispered.

    She held the flashlight out to him and was sure he had a hold of it
before letting go.  She gripped her gun in both hands and took a deep


    She heard his whisper in the darkness and answered her reply.


    What happened next happened quickly, but for Scully, time -- the
universal invariant -- seemed to slow almost still.

    She heard Mulder turn the knob on the door then she heard him kick the
door open.  She readied her weapon and stepped into the opened room.  A
quick scan of the room showed no danger but then in the shadowed corner
against the back wall...she saw her.


    "I got you."

    Scully lowered her gun and walked past the small lantern sitting on the
floor.  She heard Mulder check the rest of the room for anyone else, but
Scully's eyes never left her.

    Tied to a rusty metal bed frame, lying on an old bare mattress in the
back corner of the long room was a woman.  She was gagged and at the sight
of Mulder and Scully she began to make frantic noises trying to get
their attention.

    "You're safe.  We're not going to hurt you."  Scully checked behind her
to make sure that Mulder still had his gun drawn.  When she was certain
that he did, she put hers away to free up both of her hands.  Bending next
to the woman, Scully first untied the gag and removed it from the woman's

    "Thank God.  We have to get out of here.  He's crazy."  The woman
sputtered urgently, her voice soft and a bit raspy from the gag.

    "You're safe.  We're from the FBI.  Who put you here?  Who's crazy?"
Mulder questioned as Scully moved to the bottom of the rusted frame to untie
the woman's feet.

    "We are not safe!  No one is safe in this house.  We have to leave.
Hurry!"  She begged Scully as she fought with the knotted rope.

    "What's your name?  How did you get here?"

    "My name is Melinda.  I was driving and I got lost.  I got a flat tire.
Please hurry, we have to get out of here."

    Scully studied Melinda as the knots of the rope began to give way.  She
was tall, her bare feet almost reaching the end of the bed frame.  Scully
assessed her to be only a few inches shorter than Mulder.  Scully couldn't
guess accurately her age, but estimated her to be in her middle to
late thirties.  Her skin was very pale, appearing almost white in the
flickering light of the lantern.  She was very thin and was wearing a long,
ragged, white gown that was modest in design.  It appeared old, yet clean
except for around the hem, which was soiled from where it must have dragged
across the floor when she walked.

    Scully pulled the rope away from Melinda's feet.  She took note of the
chafed skin around her ankles that had come from the rough twine rope.
Moving to the head of the bed she began to work on the rope that bound
Melinda's hands above her head.  She had long thick dark blonde hair that
curled over the mattress and probably fell halfway down her back when she
stood.  Anyone would have judged the woman classically beautiful, but it
wasn't Melinda's beauty that Scully couldn't look away from -- it was the
terror and intensity of her deep green eyes.  The same terror and urgency
that had been steadily forming a twisted knot in the pit of Scully's stomach
from the moment she had laid eyes on this house was mirrored in Melinda's
eyes.  Eyes that both captivated and haunted.

    "How long have you been here?"  Mulder continued his questioning, still
scanning the room with his eyes.

    "I don't know."  Melinda answered weakly.  "Four or five days.  I'm not
sure.  Sometimes he keeps me in the basement in the dark.  I don't know how
long I've been here.  We have to get out!"

    Scully untied her hands and Melinda instantly began rubbing the raw skin
on her wrists.

    "Can you stand up?"  Scully asked softly.

    Melinda nodded and slowly swung her legs over the side of the bed and
sat up.

    "Melinda?"  Mulder moved closer to the bed.  "Who tied you up?"

    "I don't know who he is.  He keeps telling me that he has plans for me
and that I can't leave.  He says that I'll never leave."  Melinda's voice
shook with fear.  "Please, get me out of here before he comes back."

    "We will.  You're safe with us.  Melinda?"  Scully stepped between
Melinda and Mulder and asked her softly.  "Did he hurt you?"

    "No."  Melinda shook her head.  "He's just really scared me."

    "We'll get you out of here, but right now it's not safe to go out in the

    "You don't understand.  It's not safe to stay here."

    "Is he armed?"  Mulder questioned.

    "No, I don't think so.  I came in here when there was no answer at the
door to see if I could find a phone.  He hit me on the back of the head
with something heavy."

    "Let me check the back of your head."  Scully reached out but Melinda
surged to her feet.  She stood, a bit unsteadily at first.

    "It's fine.  We're wasting time.  We have to leave!"

    "You're safe."  Scully tried to reassure her again.  "You said he's not
armed.  We are."

    "You don't know him.  We are *not* safe."

    "Does he stay here or does he come and go?  Is he in the house right

    "I don't know,"  she cried becoming more visibly upset.

    "Mulder,"  Scully stepped closer to him and spoke quietly.  "Maybe we
should try to get back to the car."

    "Even if we can get back to the car without getting struck by lightning,
we can't go anywhere."

    "But it would get us out of this house."

    He could tell by the urgency in her voice that her instincts were
screaming out to her.  Her instincts had been dead on from the beginning,
ignoring them now wouldn't be a wise idea.

    "Ok, Scully.  Let's get her out of here."

--- ---

    A cold wind blew through the room and the lantern at the center of the
floor flickered and then went out.  For a moment the room was dark.  Scully
heard Melinda's sharp intake of breath before Mulder turned the flashlight
on and offered the room some light.  He picked up the lantern from the
floor.  Setting it on the mantle of the fireplace, he pulled the matches
from his pocket and re-lit the wick.

    Scully turned back to face Melinda, who cowered anxiously in the corner
of the room.

    "Melinda, Mulder and I are going to get you out of here."  Scully
coaxed, offering the frightened woman her hand.  Melinda timidly accepted
and Scully drew her back out into the center of the room.  "Our car
isn't that far away.  It has two flat tires but it's safe and it's dry.
We'll have to wait there until the storm blows over and then we can figure
out where we are."

    "I don't care where we go.  Just please get me out of here."  Melinda

    "Do you know where he put your clothes?"

    Melinda shook her head sadly and looked down at the tattered gown and
her bare feet.

    "He burned my clothes, my shoes, my purse and all my identification."
Melinda lifted her eyes and looked directly at Mulder.  "I can go like

    Scully watched Melinda's jaw sit in determination.

    "Let's go Mulder."

    "We'll grab my coat downstairs, that should offer you a little
protection from the wind."  Mulder walked to the door and then turned to
face Melinda and Scully.  "We're going to walk down the stairs.  You two
will go directly out the door and head toward the car.  I'll grab my jacket
and catch up with you.  Don't wait for me.  Try to stay in the grass along
side the road.  It's going to be muddy, but it will be better on Melinda's

    Scully and Melinda nodded in understanding.  Cautiously, Mulder opened
the door.  The wind and the rain continued to race down the hall.  Lightning
and thunder angrily took turns punishing the earth.  The storm hadn't
diminished since Mulder and Scully had entered the house -- it had
intensified.  Mulder turned to Melinda and taking her arm he gently pulled
her to stand in front of him.

    "Scully," he shouted above the wind, "move up front."

    Scully questioned him with her expression only for a moment before
realizing that he meant to shield them from the wind.  She took the
flashlight from him and pulling her gun, she started forward.  Before she
had even taken two steps an unearthly wail began downstairs and grew louder
and louder, piercing the air.

    "Back!"  Mulder yelled above the wind and the wail.

    Scully stood for a moment trying to identify the cry from below, but as
quickly as it began, it was over.  She turned and helped Mulder guide a
terrified Melinda back into the room they had just left.  Scully remained in
the door frame, her hair whipped forward by the wind and stuck to
her face because of the rain.  Her gun and the flashlight remained trained
toward the end of the hall.

    "We're too late."    Melinda sobbed.  "We're too late.  He's here."

    Mulder stepped next to Scully, holding out his hand for the flashlight.

    "I'm going down.  Stay here and take care of Melinda."

    Scully opened her mouth to argue that he shouldn't go alone but then she
saw the look of terror on Melinda's face.  She nodded and handed him the
light, her fingers purposely brushing over his in the transfer.  Her fingers
gently told him to be careful.  His thumb brushed hers in a silent 'I will'.

    "Melinda?"  Mulder broke his gaze away from Scully for a moment.  "Is
there another way out?"

    "The back stairs."  Melinda answered.

    Mulder turned his full attention back to Scully.

    "If I'm not back in ten minutes, you know what to do.  Get Melinda out."

    Scully nodded as she mentally vowed that she would get Melinda out --
and then she would come back for him.

    She watched Mulder walk down the hallway.  He turned and glanced at her
briefly before disappearing around the corner.

    Closing her eyes, Scully's hand drifted up to the cross hanging around
her neck.  Quickly, she offered up the same prayer she always said when she
was afraid that he wouldn't return to her.  Dana Scully then closed the door
and did the one thing she hated the most -- she waited.

    Mulder slowly make his way down the old staircase.  The roof above had
begun to leak.  The water puddled in the center of the wooden stairs, making
them even more treacherous to maneuver.  The constant dripping sound echoed
off the old walls.  The front door stood open.  Wet, dead leaves covered the
floor inside the door.  Mulder scanned the floor for wet foot prints and
found none.

    Reaching the bottom of the stairs, Mulder stepped out onto the porch and
scanned the area.  Tree branches lashed out at the house creating dark
moving shadows over the yard.  Not seeing anyone, he stepped back into the
house and closed the door.  Moving into the room where he and Scully had
first been, Mulder grabbed his jacket off of the couch.  The candles he
had lit earlier were dark, but he couldn't be sure that the wind hadn't put
them out.  Again he checked the floor for foot prints tracked in from
outside.  The only prints he saw were his own.

    Gun first, Mulder walked back out into the long hall and used the
flashlight to search the area.  Something caught his attention on the floor.
Sure that they hadn't been there just a moment ago, Mulder saw prints begin
where the carpet of leaves ended, halfway down the corridor.  The prints
disappeared behind a closed door on the right.

    Approaching the door, a rush of adrenaline traveled through his
bloodstream as he turned the knob and opened the door.  Before he could scan
the empty room or react to the whisper of noise behind him, he felt his
world explode when a heavy blunt object connected with the back of his
head.  The pain was unbearable and as the floor seemed to rush up to meet
him and before everything faded to black, his mind screamed her name.

    Scully sat on the mattress, anxious, while Melinda paced the room.
Except for the storm outside, the house was quiet.  Scully's eyes took turns
between staring at the door and staring at her watch.  Her mind took turns
deciding between doing what she knew she should and doing what she knew she
wanted.  Her heart -- was silent -- half of her heart had left with Mulder.

    Unable to ignore her watch any longer, Scully surged to her feet and
walked to the fireplace.  Picking up the lantern from the mantle she walked
to the door, checking behind her to see that Melinda was following.

    "Let's go.  Mulder said ten minutes, we've already waited longer than

    "You're just going to leave him here?"

    "No."  Scully answered vehemently.  "I'm going to do what he told me to
do and I'm going to get you out of this house.  Then I'm coming back."

    Melinda reached out an arm and rested her hand on Scully's shoulder.

    "Thank you Agent Scully."  Melinda whispered.

    "You said there were back stairs."

    "Last door on the right."

    "Stay behind me."  Scully ordered.

    Scully lifted the lantern up to her face and slid the protective guard
over the flame to ensure that it would stay lit.  Opening the door, Scully
and Melinda eased out into the hallway.  The wind was ferocious and Scully
fought to keep her eyes open as she faced the open window and advanced
toward the door.  The rain bit like broken glass as it hit her again and
again in the face.

    Needing a break from the onslaught to clear her vision, Scully turned to
face Melinda and was taken aback by what she saw.

    The statuesque woman stood in the center of the darkened hall.  Her hair
twisted and flew behind her as the wind swept it away from her face.  The
rain caused her gown to mold against her body and the excess of white
material billowed in the wind.  Her skin, which had appeared pale before,
now seemed translucent in the flickering flame of the lantern and the
lightning.  She appeared ghostly as she walked toward Scully.  Her eyes
still as haunted as they were when Scully first saw her bound and gagged to
the bed.

    Blinking several times to clear the rain from her eyes, the image of
Melinda cleared and what Scully saw before her was a frightened woman who
needed her help.  A frightened woman she needed to help before she began
looking for Mulder.

    Steeling herself against the storm, Scully turned and continued toward
the last door on the right.  The voice in her head repeating in urgency;
get Melinda out,  find Mulder.  Get Melinda out, find Mulder.  Find

    Finally reaching her goal, Scully was dismayed to find that unlike the
rest of the doors in the hall, this door opened out into the hall.  Right in
front of the open window.  Keeping a tight grip on her gun, but setting the
lantern on the floor, Scully began her struggle to open the door against the
brutal force of the wind.  Able to get the door open a crack, Scully shoved
her foot in the small opening created.  Tucking her gun away in order to use
both of her hands, little by little she was able to wedge her body into the
small space between the door and its frame.  Bending at the knee, into a
squat, with one leg on either side of the door she picked up the lantern and
moved it to the other side of the door before standing up.

    "Melinda!" Scully shouted as Melinda attempted to help her with the
door.  "Get as close to my side as you can.  When I move my foot away from
the door, you slide in.  Just like I am now."  She was becoming breathless
at the effort it took to keep the door from crushing her.  "I'll help you
from the inside as soon as I can get turned around and push.  Do you

    A faint trace of something unrecognizable crossed Melinda's eyes.
Before Scully could identify the emotion causing the change, the look was
gone.  Melinda nodded and stepped so that she was directly next to Scully.


    "Ready."  Melinda confirmed.

    Scully edged out of the doorframe until all that kept the door from
completely closing was her leg.  She looked to Melinda, who nodded.  Scully
watched as Melinda slid her foot between the door and the door frame and
with a nod to Melinda, Scully quickly pulled her leg from the opening.

    Before Scully could turn around to brace her weight against the door to
help Melinda through -- the door slammed shut.

    "Dammit!"  Scully snarled as she pounded her fists against the wooden
door.  "Melinda!" She screamed.  "You pull the door and I'll push."  She
waited for a response and heard none.  "Melinda!"  She yelled again.

    Ready to brace her shoulder against the door to push it open against the
wind, Scully put her hand on the door knob and...it was locked.

    Scully tried again and again to turn the knob, but to no avail.  The
door was locked.

    "Melinda!"  She tried one more time before pounding on the door.

    She turned and quickly drew her gun and picked up the lantern.  The dim
light only reached about two feet in front of her and Scully could see no
end to the steps that descended at her feet.  Turning back to the closed
door, she tried one last time at twisting the knob.  Still locked.

    Her mind raced with possibilities, fears and accusations.  The voice in
her head now only repeated two words over and over again.  Find Mulder.

    The air in the stairwell was stale and musty.  Scully began walking
down the steps, slowly, using the lantern to cast the dim light as far out
as it was able.  Her gun clutched tightly in her hand.  She hadn't gotten
very far when a new smell started to attack her senses.  A smell that she
wasn't able to identify -- as she got further down the stairs the odor grew
stronger and stronger.  Scully was forced to place her arm over her nose and
mouth in order to keep breathing.  Four steps lay in front of her before she
saw the cement floor, and she was no longer able to deny the stench that now
permeated the air she breathed, and clung to her like a cloak.  It was the
smell of death.

    Unable to stand it any longer, she fought the urge to gag,
unsuccessfully.  Gagging only brought more and more of the foul air into her
lungs.  She clamped her sleeved arm over her nose and mouth and tried to
control and slow her breathing.  Closing her eyes and taking in only the
smell of the cloth of her coat, she was able to push down the bile rising in
the back of her throat.

    Opening her eyes, but keeping her arm tightly over her face, Scully
stepped down the last four stairs and held the lantern out in front of her.
She was in a small room, with out any obvious outlets, no doors, no windows.
Lowering the lantern, Scully again felt the bile climb up her throat.
Bodies, in varying stages of decay, covered the floor.

    Stepping forward, she tried to count the individual bodies that spread
out before her.  One, two, three, four...

    Suddenly a hand reached around her from behind and grabbed the gun away
from the arm she was using to protect herself from the stench.  Scully
reacted quickly and brought that same arm back forcefully until she felt her
elbow connect with a solid target.  The man behind her lurched forward in
pain, but still clamped a rag over her face.  Scully's hands rushed to her
face and tried to pull and tear at the hand holding the material over her
nose and mouth.  She recognized the bitter smell and knew that she didn't
have long.  Distracting him by pulling at the arm covering her mouth, Scully
raised her knee and stomped on the inside of his foot with as much strength
as she was able to gather.

    "Bitch."  The man holding her hissed as he lifted his leg off the floor
in pain.  Scully used the opportunity to try and throw him off balance and
she jerked her body to the left.  The man only tightened his grip around her
mouth and they both fell backwards.  Her captor fell onto the stairs and
painfully twisted one of her arms around behind her back in punishment.  As
the pain traveled up her arm and exploded in her brain, the chemically
treated cloth was making the room start to spin and as darkness began to
swallow her up, her mind screamed his name.  Mulder.

--- ---

    A deep agonizing moan woke Mulder from the dark blackness of sleep.
Immediately the painful throbbing that filled his head brought into focus
that the moan had come from this own throat.  Still deep in the haze of
unconsciousness, Mulder tried to move his hand to the back of the head.  The
ache at the base of his skull took an immediate backseat to the realization
that his hands were bound above his head.

    Slowly opening his eyes, the room blurred and began to spin as his
stomach lurched toward his throat.  Another low moan broke the eerie silence
as Mulder tightly squeezed his eyes closed and took a long, deep breath.
Minutes passed as he concentrated only on taking the slow, deep even breaths
that would abate the nauseating spin the room seemed intent on taking.

    When his stomach began to calm, Mulder tried to remember what had
happened:  walking down the stairs, footprints in the hallway, closed door,
pain, Scully.  Where was Scully?  Physically trying to shake the fog from
his thoughts, Mulder moved his head from side to side.  Using the sharpness
of the pain that ensued to bring him to full alertness, he opened his eyes.

    It took his eyes a few minutes to adjust, but thankfully the room was
lit only lantern and soft flame.  The object of his search came into view
instantly.  Scully lay motionless on a steel exam table directly in front of
him.  Panic surged into his mind until he was able to detect the rise and
fall of her chest.


    No response.


    Still no response.

    It was time to get them both the hell out of there.  He seemed to be
lying on a make-shift hospital bed.  There was a mattress under him and bars
framed the bed.  His hands, he viewed looking carefully above his head, were
handcuffed together.  The handcuffs were twined through the bars of the bed.
Giving his arms one hard downward pull assured him that the steel was
sturdy -- and dammit -- they were his own handcuffs.  Velcro straps secured
his ankles to the bed and a leather belt of sorts tightly held him to the
bed at the waist.  The bed was tipped at an angle so that Mulder was
positioned almost up-right facing the center of the dark room.  Facing

    Scully was bound in the same manner, except her arms were at her sides
secured by velcro at the wrists.  The steel table was also at a vertical
angle.  Facing Mulder.

    Medical equipment surrounded the table where Scully was held.  Looking
to his left, Mulder saw a few of the same machines, although not as many.
He recognized the EKG machine and the heart monitor from his many trips to
the hospital, the other equipment he would have to wait for Scully to

    He noticed that the machines were lit up, indicating that they were
being supplied with electricity, yet the room was lit by lanterns.  He
guessed they were being held in the basement of the house.  The floor was a
gray cement, the ceiling was the same rotting wood that made up the rest of
the house.  Heavy, dark drapes concealed the area behind Scully and the two
walls on the left and the right.  There was a television set on his right
and several Bunsen burners were located on small tables throughout the room.
The burners heated glass beakers filled with vibrantly colored boiling
liquid.  There were no windows that he could see, and no doors.

    "Mulder?"  Her voice was soft, weak.

    Mulder's gaze snapped back to see Scully groggily moving her head from
side to side, as though trying to rid herself of the annoying blackness that
was pervasively trying to recapture her.

    "Come on Scully.  Open your eyes."  Mulder coaxed.

    Her eye lids were so heavy.  Her lips were dry and the effort it was
going to take to wake up seemed to much to grasp at the moment.

    "Come on, Scully."

    Scully focused on Mulder's voice, took a deep breath and opened her
eyes.  Her vision was blurred and it took a few moments to focus.  Her first
sight was Mulder, watching her expectantly.

    "It's about time you woke up," he joked, relieved to see her conscious.

    "Sorry," she replied weakly.

    Scully closed her eyes again and stretched her neck from side to side.
Trying to move and stretch the rest of her body, she opened her eyes and
took formal notice of the restraints.

    "Where the hell are we Mulder?"  Scully sighed, taking in not only her
own restraints but Mulder's also.

    "I think it must be the basement.  There's power coming from somewhere,
but no lights.  I don't think the room is sound proof, but you can hardly
hear the storm.  I think the drapes on the walls are to muffle the sound."

    Mulder noticed Scully trying to concentrate on what he was saying but
her eyes kept drifting closed.

    "Scully, did you get hit on the back of the head?"

    "No," she answered still groggy from the effects of the drug.  "He used
chloroform or something similar."


    "I hit him before I blacked out.  He groaned like a *he*."

    "Way to go Scully, make him angry."  Mulder teased.

    "Did you get hit on the back of the head?"

    "He came up from behind me," he explained, his pride still a bit

    "How's your vision?  Headache?"  Scully fought the lack of control she
was feeling by slipping into a familiar role...taking care of Mulder.

    "My vision was fine, Scully, the moment I woke up and saw you there," he
admitted quietly.  "What happened after I left you?"  He asked quickly
shifting the conversation.

    "I found the others.  The people reported missing.  They're dead,
Mulder."  Scully reported softly after a moment.


    "The backstairs Melinda referred to led to a room.  It was an open
grave.  There were bodies all over the floor.  I didn't get time to
determine cause of death."


    "We were separated," Scully answered briskly.  "Did you come up with a
way to get us out of here while I was unconscious?"

    "Well, I had a great plan A, but then I remembered that I brought the
real hand cuffs and not the fake plastic ones."  He clanged the cuffs loudly
against the bed frame for effect.

    "I don't suppose you came up with a plan B?"

    "I did, of course it depends on if you woke up with telekinetic

    She shook her head slowly, looking around the room.

    "What's behind me?"

    "A heavy dark drape, a table with a Bunsen burner heating a purple
liquid and next to the burner..." she strained her neck trying to get a
better look.  "I think it's our guns."

    "What's all the medical equipment?  I recognize the EKG machine and the
heart monitor."

    She scanned the machines next to him and those to her immediate left.

    "The rest look like simple monitoring devices.  Blood pressure.  Pulse
rate.  Galvanized Skin Response monitor.  My chemistry's rusty -- I don't
know what all the liquid on the burners are."

    "What about the machine on the cart next to you?"

    Scully twisted her head and tried to get a glance at the cart Mulder was
referring to.  It was too far back for her to see.  She tried to shift her
body to slide closer to the edge of the table.  Although she couldn't move
her body, she did notice that the restraint on her right side was loose.

    "Mulder, I think I can get my right hand free," she whispered quietly,
beginning to struggle to pull her hand away from the restraint.  Mulder
watched her silently.

    When her hand was almost free from the velcro straps, the curtain behind
her parted and a figure stepped through the folds of material.  Scully
stopped her struggle and looked up to catch Mulder's eye.

    The figure was hidden behind the exam table and slowly Melinda walked
around the table and into the center of the room.

    "Melinda!"  Mulder exclaimed relieved.  "Untie Scully.  We can all still
get out of here alive.  Scully's right hand is almost free...:"

    "Mulder!"  Scully shouted trying to stop him from revealing to much to
the woman.

    "Help get her off the table."  Mulder finished not understanding
Scully's warning.

    "Of course."  Melinda answered.

    Melinda stepped between the two tables, facing Scully.  She met Scully's
gaze.  Scully found herself frightened at how empty Melinda's eyes seemed.
Melinda took Scully's hand into her own and pushed it firmly down onto the

    "Hold still."  Melinda instructed as she pulled the velcro strap away
from Scully's wrist.  Then, still holding Scully's hand and never breaking
eye contact, Melinda tightened the strap and re-fastened it over Scully's

    "What the hell is going on?"  Mulder again futilely struggled to free

    "Whatever's happening in this house -- she's a part of it."  Scully
answered, her eyes never leaving Melinda's, daring her to deny the

    The curtain behind Scully parted a second time and a deep masculine
voice filled the room.

    "Very good, Agent Scully.  Or should I address you as Dr. Scully?"

    Mulder and Scully both strained to see the owner of the voice while
Melinda stepped back into the shadows of the darkened room.

    "I'd say you were a master of your craft, one of the FBI's finest, but
alas, you are the one strapped to an exam table.  Tsk, Tsk," the voice

    "Who are you?"  Mulder demanded, still trying to get a glimpse of the
elusive figure masked within the folds of the dark drapes.  "What do you

    "Fox Mulder.  Agent Fox Mulder.  Answers only to Mulder, hates the name
Fox.  You were on the FBI's fast track, until you lost your ambition, and
some say your mind, in the stars."

    "Is this how we're going to spend the evening?  Listening to a coward
behind a curtain prove to us that he took our badges and did a little
hacking into our files over the Internet?"  Mulder shouted in the direction
he had last heard the voice.

    A man stepped from the shadows and quickly encircled Scully's throat
with his hand.  Her body tensed but she refused to flinch in reaction.

    "No Mulder.  I have a much better way to spend our evening," the man
hissed into Scully's ear.

    "Get your hand off of me."  Scully warned, her voice low and strong.

    Not moving a muscle, and defying him by not looking him in the eye,
Scully waited.  She felt the slight pressure of his fingers tighten briefly
before leaving her neck.

    "Whatever the lady likes...for now."

    He walked away from her, focusing his attention now on Mulder.

    "Good catch, the Internet."  He pulled a badge from each pocket and set
them on a nearby table.  "Your file said that you were highly intelligent,
it must be just your career you're wasting, not your intellect."

    Scully studied the man as he walked away from her.  Tall, hair that had
once been dark was now prematurely graying.  Slender...too slender.  The
white lab coat he wore hung off his skeletal frame.  His cheeks were sunken,
his eyes were deep caverns of darkness.  She could still feel his cold bony
fingers around her neck -- squeezing her throat.  A dread like none other
she had ever experienced chilled her blood.

    "The Internet? The machines?  No lights?  What's with all the doom and
gloom?"  Mulder questioned.

    "Atmosphere," he replied dramatically.  "Don't tell me you don't
appreciate the atmosphere I've created for you.  I'm hosting this little
gathering, just trying to make it more memorable for you.  Not that I'm
giving you time to remember it.  That is a shame.  I've gone to a lot of
work here."

    "Don't you think it's about time you told us who you are and what you
want?"  Scully asked, tiring of the melodrama.

    "Oh, forgive me," he apologized turning to face her.  "Let me introduce
myself," he bowed and then straightened.  "My name is Ethan Rupert."  He
stepped closer to Scully, emphasizing each word.  "Doctor Ethan Rupert."

    "Is that supposed to mean something?"  Mulder asked snidely.

    Scully's mind raced as Mulder spoke, she searched her memory for the
familiar name.  She knew that she had heard it somewhere, maybe read it.  If
she could just remember...

    "Oh my God."  She spoke softly -- a whisper -- as she remembered.

    "Flattery,  my dear Dana will get you nowhere," he returned the whisper,
running his finger down her cheek.

    Scully twisted her face away from his touch.

    "You didn't have to hack into our files," she accused.  "Although I'm
sure your old passwords no longer work."

    "What's going on Scully?"

    "Dr. Ethan Rupert," she repeated.  "Mulder, do you remember the
scientist that disappeared almost a year ago?  The big cover-up.  Everyone
knew he was working for the government doing research but after he
disappeared no one could explain what he was researching."

    "You cracked."  Mulder grinned, obviously remembering the tale.

    Rupert spun toward him, his eyes blazing with fury.

    "You don't know what you're talking about."  Rupert fumed, becoming
agitated by Mulder's words.

    "Think again, Dr. Frankenstein.  You were working on some secret project
for that branch of the government that doesn't exist, at least on paper, and
you snapped.  You killed two people in the lab.  The military pulled your
funding -- but you didn't stop.  There were four more deaths before you went
underground in DC.  Then the higher-ups got a lead on you and you

    "Too bad for you that you won't live through the night.  It would be
quite the feather in your cap if you were to bring me in."

    "I find feathers gaudy, over-dressed."  Mulder stated smoothly.

    "From this moment - until your last - it doesn't matter what you find."
Rupert snarled.

    "Is that what this is about?  Why those people died?  Research?"  Scully
questioned, drawing Rupert away from Mulder.  "You are crazy."

    "Stop saying that!"  Rupert ordered through clenched teeth.

    Scully watched his eyes fill with rage and she steeled herself against
the blow she knew was coming as he raised his fist to strike.  She heard the
clanging of Mulder's handcuffs as he tried to break his way free of the
binds.  Just before his fist would have connected with her jaw, Scully saw
Melinda step out from the shadows.

    "Ethan," she said sharply.

    His fist stopped only inches from her face.  His fingers uncurled and
ran down her cheekbone -- causing her stomach to wretch in disgust.

    "Everything is under control."  Ethan said turning to Melinda and taking
her hand for a moment before disappearing into the shadows of the room

    "You have no idea of how hard this has been for him."  Melinda spat in
defense.  "He gave his entire life to those people.  He did everything -
everything - he was ordered to do.  He carried out orders that no one else
would have been capable of doing.  They gave him an assignment and when he
carried it out...they branded him a criminal."

    "What are you, his lab assistant?"  Mulder asked, sarcasm laced in his
words.  "Your real name wouldn't happen to be Igor, would it?"

    "No, Agent Mulder, I'm his wife."

    Ethan continued to circle in the shadows, muttering softly to himself
and waving his arms.

    "What is this about?  What is he researching?"  Scully asked keeping an
eye on Rupert.

    "It didn't start out like this.  The military put him through med
school.  Someone decided he had special talents early on and he was assigned
to a covert research project studying methods of extracting information."

    "Methods of torture."  Mulder realized.

    "Not at first."  Melinda said quickly.  "At first he was studying fight
and flight responses and how to synthetically mimic the biological stages of
the flight response.  Ethan felt that if he heightened anxiety, a person
would be more apt to divulge information.  He ran tests and collected the
data."  Melinda explained beginning to pace back and forth between Mulder
and Scully.  "The procedure was very promising, but they wanted it faster.
Ethan experimented with different chemical combinations and he succeeded.
He again took his data to the men in charge, it wasn't good enough.  The
drugs only worked in 60% of the cases and could cause immediate death in
cases where people were allergic.  They said they didn't have time to wait
for a drug to take effect.  It needed to be faster.  It needed to be
better."  Her voice grew softer and she cast a quick glance over to Ethan.
"Something happened to Ethan, he became driven to please these people.  He
took each rejected idea personally.  He saw each attempt as a failure.  He
spent all his days and nights locked in the research lab studying human
nature.  He took note of each biological and psychological weakness known to
man.  He lost himself in that lab -- he killed himself for those people.
And for what?  One day he came out of the lab and said that he had found
what they were looking for.  He went to them, told them what he found.  He
reported that the procedure was 95% effective.  They told him to prove it."

    "The first two deaths in the lab?"  Scully asked and Melinda nodded.

    "They didn't like it, said that the new procedure left too much to
chance.  They said the research needed to stop.  They weren't interested in
it anymore -- they had moved on.  But Ethan, Ethan couldn't move on, he
couldn't understand how anyone could deny how perfect his method was.  He
tried to prove it to them twice more.  The next thing we knew there were
police questioning our friends about where we were.  The same people who had
put this entire plan into motion were now trying to arrest Ethan because he
was doing exactly what they told him to do."

    "He kills people."  Scully stated bitterly.

    "He kills people because that's what the government pays him to do.
They convinced him.  They convinced him that if he wasn't willing to work
with them, that he was a traitor to his country.  He didn't want to continue
with the research after they had rejected the drug treatment.  He had tried
to get out, but then they threatened his life.  When that didn't work, they
threatened my life.  That's when he came up with his current method."

    "Melinda, the government doesn't pay him any more.  They are not going
to suddenly take him back after all he's done."

    "You think I'd go back there?"  Ethan stepped back into the conversation
and back into the center of the room.  "I'm not giving my results to a
government that doesn't appreciate my methods.  People with no loyalty, no
creativity.  People I gave up my life for and are now trying to hunt me down
like a dog.  I have one more trial to run and then my research data gets
sold to the highest bidder.  The highest bidder that is not the US

    "One more trial?  That's us?"

    "That's you.  Prep her Melinda."

    "Since you seem to be so proud of this so called *method*, would you
care to let us in on what it is?"  Mulder asked as he watched Melinda walk
toward Scully.

    Rupert was quiet for a moment as he too watched Melinda.

    Melinda stepped toward Scully and began to unbutton the blouse Scully
was wearing.  Scully began to struggle beneath the woman's hands.  Melinda
pulled away and calmly checked the restraints to be certain they were tight.

    "Don't struggle."  Melinda urged.  "You'll only hurt yourself."

    Melinda continued to unbutton the blouse and then pulled the fabric away
from Scully's body exposing her stomach and chest to the cold basement air.
Melinda took a scissors from the stand next to the exam table and began
cutting the material of the blouse's sleeve.  First one and then the other,
until she was able to pull the ruined garment away from her completely,
leaving only her white cotton bra as covering.  Moving to the end of the
table, Melinda removed her shoes.

    Scully was beginning to panic.  She watched the woman strip her of her
clothing and was relieved when Melinda stopped with her shoes.  The exam
table was now extremely cold against her back and she couldn't help but
wonder what was in store for her as Melinda began to hook her up to the
various machines that were next to the bed.

    "My method, Agent Mulder, is very simple.  If you want something from
someone who doesn't want to give it to you, physically harming them will not
get you what you want."

    "What will get you what you want?"  Mulder asked keeping a close eye on
what Melinda was doing to Scully.

    "Not to physically harm the person you want the information from - but
to physically harm someone that person cares about."

    Scully looked up from where she was watching Melinda attach the
different leads from the machines to her body.

    "Psychological torture?"  She questioned.

    "My hypothesis is simply that psychological torture, as you put it so
nicely, is more effective at breaking an individual than physical torture.
I begin with you Dr. Scully -- I use electric shock, in progressive amounts,
to get a heart rate, blood pressure and skin response reading to develop a
baseline for your endurance level.  Meanwhile, Agent Mulder's reactions to
your physical discomfort are also recorded.  Once you, Dana, inform me that
you've had enough and you beg me to stop, then you switch places and the
experiment begins again.  My results so far indicate that the person forced
to watch will experience much more distress than the person being given the
electrical stimulation."

    Scully couldn't think, couldn't react.  Her attention fell back to
Melinda, who had just finished attaching her to all the monitors.  All the
leads made sense now, including the two electrodes she had placed on her
back, right below her shoulder blades.  She watched Melinda walk to Mulder
and begin to unbutton his shirt.

    Mulder's mind was too fixated on the fact that he was going to have to
watch this bastard hurt Scully to think clearly.  Melinda was suddenly in
front of him, unbuttoning his shirt.  She pulled the material away from him
and began attaching the correct monitors to his temples and chest.

    Mulder's eyes grabbed onto Scully's and held them.  A silent promise
passed between them.  He gave her the strength to face what was ahead and in
turn she gave him the strength to think clearly.

    "Your entire theory is based on psychological and emotional attachment.
The basis for your method is two people who deeply care for one another,"
Mulder began, cautiously formulating his plan as he went.  "The other eight
couples that disappeared were couples - man and wife - they were married.
They were in love,"

    "Agent Mulder and I aren't emotionally attached," continued Scully, sure
she knew where Mulder's line of thinking was going.  "We work as partners
for the FBI.  You read our files.  We work together.  We aren't in love."

    "If you use us in this experiment, you're only going to skew your data.
It won't be accurate.  We only work together."  Mulder insisted.

    Ethan smiled and walked to the television set at the side wall.  Pushing
it forward, he positioned it next to the two agents, giving them both a
perfect view of the screen.

    "I thought that also.  I was highly disappointed when I found your
badges and your guns.  I did read your file and I must admit I was about to
let you go -- then I rewatched the scene that had me so excited about the
two of you in the first place."

    "What are you talking about?"  Scully looked at Mulder, whose eyes only
mirrored her own curiosity.

    Ethan turned on the television and pressed the play button on the VCR.
Soon the white static on the screen was replaced by a clear picture of the
room they had been in when they had first arrived at the house.

    Scully was ready to dismiss the video as more delusions of a madman when
she saw the camera zoom in on two figures on the couch.  The figures were
her and Mulder.  She realized that there must have been a hidden video
camera in the dark room.

    She was sleeping in the position she remembered, her head pillowed in
Mulder's lap.  Then, as she watched the video, she saw herself begin to toss
on the sofa.  Then she turned over.  Mulder was trying to keep her
comfortable and from falling off the couch when suddenly she turned and
would have fallen if it hadn't been for Mulder's strong arms.

    She was sitting in his lap, sound asleep, snuggling against him while he
stroked her hair and kissed the top of her head and her forehead.  She
watched the strangers on the screen.  She watched the woman sleep in his
arms.  She watched the man whisper softly to her and brush his lips against
the woman's skin.  She was mesmerized by what she saw and how it was making
her feel.  This couple wasn't them.  It couldn't be.  Yet it was.  She
glanced away from the screen for a moment, to Mulder.

    So much time.  So much wasted time.  Wanting.  Yearning.  Wondering.
Dreaming.  To always be ripped apart from one another only to find each
other again and still deny, deny each other the simple pleasure of being
together.  Together like  she had just seen on the video tape.

    They had been so close in that hallway.  So close to realizing what it
would be like to be together.  Mulder had told her what was in his heart.
He had broken through her last remaining wall of defense by telling her how
he felt.  For so long she had believed that it was only her that needed him.
She existed in his world and was a hindrance to his search more than a
partner.  She was the one who needed him, needed his drive, his support, his
passion.  But in the hallway he had told her that he needed her.  She knew
the instant he made the decision to kiss her.  His eyes darkened and she saw
when the internal struggle gave way to instinct.  She had wanted him to kiss
her.  She had wanted to kiss him.  But then the world fell out from under
her, out from under both of them.

    She almost wished she'd never seen the tape.  Never seen what might have
been.  Her, curled up in Mulder's lap;  him kissing her, comforting her,
keeping her safe.  If she died tonight, on this damn table, she would die
knowing what it would look like if they were together.  She would die
knowing there was so much they could finally say to each other.  She would
die after being given a glimpse of what it could have been.

    He could feel her eyes on him, could sense her confusion.  He couldn't
meet her eyes this time.

    Scully focused back on the screen and didn't move, even after Ethan had
turned off the video and the television.  She felt both men watching
her, studying her.

    Melinda stepped in front of Scully, blocking the view of the two men.
Scully looked up into the woman's eyes and what she saw there surprised her.
She saw understanding.

    "Oh my God!"  Ethan shrieked excitedly.  "You've never told each other."
He bent over at the waist in laughter.  "How tragic..."  His laughter amused
him for a moment and then he straightened,  dead serious once again.  "And
how perfect."

    "Rupert..."  Mulder began.

    "Say it,"  Ethan challenged.  "Say it.  Let the last thing she hears
from you be that you don't love her.  Say it!"

    Mulder was silent, damning him with his eyes.  Ethan turned to Scully.

    "Can you say it?  Can you let the last words he hears from you be that
you don't care?  Come on.  Say it!"  He shouted at Scully.

    "Ethan, that's enough.  We have to get started."  Melinda interrupted
before Scully could offer a reply.

    Ethan walked to where Scully was bound on the table.  Melinda stepped
around the table to Scully's other side.

    She struggled against the restraints again and Melinda pushed her
shoulder back onto the table.

    "There's really nothing you can do."

    "What happens next?"  Scully asked, nervously looking from Ethan to

    "Next, Dana, I start with a low level of electrical stimulation.  I
record your response and Mulder's response.  I slowly increase the level of
stimulation and continue to record your individual responses."  Ethan
explained as he readied the equipment and calibrated the machines.

    "Until what?"  Scully asked.  "You slowly increase the level of
electrical stimulation until what happens?"

    "For you, I continue until you beg me to stop."

    "And then what?  What happens when I beg you to stop?"

    "Then you and your partner switch places."

    Ethan leaned over her to check the position of the monitors, his face
directly next to hers.  She could feel his breath on her neck.

    "What happens when he begs you to stop?"  She whispered, not looking at

    Ethan moved so that his mouth was directly next to her ear.

    "When he begs me to stop -- I keep going,"  he whispered so that only
she could hear him.

    Ethan  lingered for a moment next to her ear before moving to Mulder and
checking the equipment there.

    "Melinda," she called quietly to the woman next to her.  "What happens
to the one who's left?"


    "How does he kill the one who's left?"

    "It's quick, painless.  He uses an injection.  You won't feel a thing."
Melinda promised as she left Scully and walked to Mulder.

    She looked down at her body.  She felt the machines attached to her
skin.  She heard the heart monitor signaling her heart beat.  She was aware
of the restraints holding her wrists, ankles, and waist to the metal table.

    She looked to Mulder, saw the same restraints binding his ankles and his
waist.  She saw the machines attached to his chest.  Her eyes traveled up to
the hand-cuffs holding his wrists above his head.

    Her eyes moved down his arms and met his hazel gaze.  His eyes moved to
her hand where the restraint had once been loose.  His eyes then hopefully
moved back up to hers.  She tried to move her hand again, it was held
tightly.  She shook her head.  The hope that had been in his eyes died.

--- ---

    Scully took a deep measured breath and looked up to see Ethan walking
back toward her.  Melinda remained standing next to Mulder.

    "Here we go.  Ready or not."  Ethan prompted as he set the dials on the
machine next to her that she assumed controlled the electrical current.

    Scully set her jaw and turned her head so that she saw neither Ethan nor
Mulder.  She closed her eyes and concentrated only on her breathing.

    She heard the snick of the switch on the machine being thrown before she
was aware of the current coursing through her body.  She clenched her eyes
tightly closed and her lips formed a thin line as she squeezed them
together.  Scully took two deep breaths through her nose, and then the
sensation was over.

    She let out a rush of breath from her mouth and unclenched her fists.

    "Scully?"  Mulder shouted from in front of her.

    She turned, opened her eyes to him and nodded her head to tell him that
she was fine.  The printers and machines on both sides of the room were
loudly recording their bodies' physical responses to the exercise.

    "Going up."  Ethan whispered in her ear as he turned the dials on the

    Scully took a deep breath, but was only able to get half the amount of
oxygen she needed when her body arched off the table in a painful response
to the electrical current.  She heard Mulder scream her name as she bit
tightly down on her lower lip to keep from crying out in agony.  The waist
restraint embedded into her skin and it wasn't until Ethan cut the power
that her body fell back against the table.

    A tear from her eye fell across her check disappearing into her hair as
she tasted the slight metallic flavor of blood from the inside of her mouth
where she had bit down.  Her breathing was becoming labored and she fought
to fill her lungs with short gasps.

    "Anytime Scully."  Ethan taunted, his mouth against her ear.  "You have
the power to end this.  Just beg me to stop."

    "Bastard,"  Scully spat before being thrown into another electrical
seizure.  Her body felt as if it were being pulled apart from the inside.
Her teeth tore into the already ripped flesh of her inner lip and her
fingernails dug into the palm of her hand.  But still she fought him.

    The siege upon her body again temporarily ended and she gasped for

    "Ethan, come here."  Melinda called from where she stood next to Mulder.

    Scully could still hear Mulder calling her name, so she knew for the
moment he was fine.  She focused on her breathing and slowly she heard the
heart monitor next to her return to a steady regular beat.

    She had to stay calm.  She had to be ready when Mulder came up with a
plan to get them out of here.  Mulder always came up with a plan.  He always
saved her.  She always saved him.  From the very beginning they had saved
each other.

    How many times had he rushed in at the very last moment and rescued her.
He had saved her from a town full of cannibals, Donnie Pfaster, an alien
spaceship, even cancer.  She had rescued him from the iron grip of a virtual
reality nightmare, a sweeper team in Puerto Rico, and many times she had
rescued him from himself.  He would save her this time.  They were not going
to die in the crazed hands of this man.  She would fight to hang on and he
would save her.

    Mulder urgently called her name again and with effort she opened her
eyes.  One look at him and she knew.

    His eyes were ablaze with desperation.  His body was covered with a fine
layer of sweat from his struggle.  Blood trickled down his arms from where
he beat his wrists against the metal cuffs in trying to escape.

    They were going to die.

    She closed her eyes to him and let her head fall to the side.  She
needed to rest.  She needed to think.  She was going to die on this table.
All she had to do to stop it was scream -- but then she would have to watch
Mulder die.  She knew, of the two of them, she was the strong one.  She knew
what it would do to Mulder if he was forced to watch her die.  She knew what
it was doing to him having to watch her suffer.  She knew that he would
willingly trade places with her in an instant.  His eyes were begging her to
scream out.  But in her heart she knew that she couldn't.

    She couldn't be the strong one this time.  She couldn't watch Mulder
die.  She couldn't watch his body wracked with the kind of pain she was
going to experience.   She would be strong and let Rupert defeat her, but
only because she was weak.

    She heard Rupert return to the machine next to her and she heard him
again adjust the dials.

    "Come on Scully.  Tell me to stop.  No one's gone this far on the first
trial.  Tell me to stop and I won't flip the switch."  Ethan coaxed.

    Scully was silent, resigned to her fate.

      The pain was everywhere all at once.  She was being burned alive.  Her
jaw clamped shut, preventing the scream that began low in her throat from
escaping.  Bright colors and bursts of white exploded behind her eyes and
she was unable to breathe.  Pinpricks of pain tore at her skin and wounded
her body.  Her blood boiled in her veins and just as the darkness was about
to claim her, the torture ended.

    "You're killing her!"  Mulder screamed, metal battling metal as his
cuffs scraped across the bed frame.  "Scully, tell him to stop, for God's
sake tell him to stop."

    "Ethan,"  Melinda walked to stand next to him.  "You have to switch
them.  She's going to die.  The voltage and the amps are too high.  You're
going to kill her too soon."

    "Shut up!"  Ethan hissed shoving Melinda away from Scully.  "She will
beg for her life, or she will die."

    "If she dies, you'll never finish your research.  They will send people
out looking for them.  They're from the FBI.  We'll get caught."

    "She will beg me for her life, or she will die."  Ethan repeated, his
eyes glazed with madness.

    Melinda walked back to Mulder.  She busied herself checking the read
outs from the various printers he was attached to.

    "She won't beg him,"  Mulder said quietly to Melinda -- as well as
confirming it out loud to himself.  "Scully won't beg."

    "Then she will die."  Melinda answered simply.

    "Scully,"  Mulder pleaded. "Scully, just scream out.  Scream out my name
and it will be over.  Just scream out my name," he begged.

    Ethan gave her a moment to respond to Mulder's plea.  When she didn't,
he turned the electrical current on.

    Mulder closed his eyes and tears escaped out from under both lids.  He
couldn't watch.  He couldn't stand to see her body convulsing in pain and
not be able to do anything about it.  He heard the current being turned off
followed by the audible *thump* of her body falling back against the table.

    Mulder opened his eyes.  The sight of her made him wish that his own
death would come sooner.  Her skin was white.  Her hair was matted against
her head with sweat.  Her eyes were still closed and her chest rose and fell
unevenly as she tried to breathe.

    "Help her."  Mulder begged Melinda.  "She doesn't deserve this.  Why
won't she stop him?"

    "Because she knows that if she does, she'll have to watch you die."

    "Scully," he yelled again.  "Scully, open your eyes," he requested
desperately.  He couldn't let her die without her knowing the truth.

    Her response was slow, but she opened her eyes and tried to focus them
on him.

    "Scully, I love you," he cried.  "I should have told you long before
this, but it's true.  I need for you to make him stop hurting you.  Make him
stop, Scully."

    Through the tears in his eyes he saw the small smile form on her lips
and the tear run down her face.  He was hopeful for an instant until he saw
her turn her head away from him and close her eyes.

    "Nice try."  Ethan mocked, "but obviously not good enough."

    He again adjusted the dials of the machine and threw the switch.

    Mulder felt his throat constrict as he watched her body convulse once
and then go still, the heart monitor next to her screaming a long steady,
deadly wail.

    "Scccullleee..."  Mulder screamed out to her, begging her to return to
him.  Half his heart ripped out of his chest, half his mind left him and
half his soul was replaced by a throbbing chasm filled only with anguish.

    The skin ripped from his wrists, the metal tore into his flesh, as he
tried to pull free.  He didn't feel.  He couldn't catch his breath, the air
was being forcibly sucked from his lungs.  He didn't think.  He could only
watch, more powerless than he had ever been before.  His mind and mouth
chanted her name in a desperate plea he believed she could still hear.

    Scully's body stayed motionless on the exam table.  Rupert struggled to
get the table level.  He opened her mouth and tried to blow life back into
her body.

    "What are you doing?"  Melinda demanded.

    She gave up trying to restrain Mulder and moved quickly to Ethan.

    He worked frantically, performing CPR on Scully.

    "Charge the defibrillator," he ordered her.

    "Ethan, she's dead."

    "That's why you need to charge the defibrillator,"  Rupert hissed.

    "It's too late."  Melinda insisted, trying to stop Ethan.

    He reacted violently, pushing her to the floor and flipping the switch
on the machine himself.

    "If you're not going to help me, stay away from me."  Rupert bellowed
before returning to Scully.  "This bitch is not going to beat me.  She will
beg me for her life.  I'm not going to make this easy for her.  I'm not
going to just let her die.  She's going to suffer before she dies."

    Melinda watched him silently from where she lay on the floor.  Standing,
she walked to him and handed him the paddles he needed to save Scully's
life.  The paddles he needed to prolong her suffering.

    The essence that was Scully joined and watched.  Half rising from her,
half rising from him.  The body she knew was still as Rupert and Melinda
worked over it.  She was drawn not toward the body she needed to live, but
toward the body that needed her to live.  Mulder.

    His eyes were filled with terror as he watched.  His face wet with a
combination of sweat and tears.  His body bruised with the struggle of
trying to free himself to save her.

    She didn't want to leave him.  She wasn't ready to leave him.  She
didn't understand why this time it had taken them so long to find each
other.  Why it had been so difficult.  She wanted to comfort him.  She
wanted to promise him that next time it wouldn't be so hard.  She wanted to
tell him everything she felt for him now, while it was still clear.

    She drifted toward him, wanting to soothe his suffering before she was
forced to leave him.  Suddenly, she was the one being ripped apart by the

    Rupert took the paddles from Melinda.  Placing them on Scully's chest,
he tried to start her heart.  The monitor next to the bed ceased
its long cadence and started a slow syncopated chirping.

    Mulder watched her chest begin to rise and fall on its own.  He closed
his eyes and filled his own lungs with air.  She was alive.  Scully was

    It was hard for her to breathe, but she knew that she was lucky to be
breathing.  Her chest felt heavy and her skin stretched tightly over her
bones, but she felt cold.  There was no longer a hot stinging sensation
over-coming her.  Her body was trying to re-stabilize her temperature.  She
listened for a moment to the heart monitor.  The beeps were getting
stronger.  Her breathing was becoming more regular, unlike the ragged
intakes of breath she heard across from her.

    She opened her eyes and saw...Mulder.  The voice she heard, however, was

    "Ready for round two?"  He cackled with excitement.

    She turned her face and met his gaze.  Hate and loathing shot at him
from her tired blue eyes.

    "Now.  Now."   Rupert scolded.  "Be grateful.  I saved your life.  But
don't get too comfortable.  I'm only going to take it again."

    Melinda stepped between Ethan and Scully.  She began to remove the
restraints that were holding Scully to the table.

    "What are you doing?"  Ethan demanded.

    "She needs to rest.  You can't begin again right away.  She has to get
some of her strength back if she's going to be any good to us."  Melinda
explained, continuing to free Scully's wrists and ankles.

    "Why are you letting her go?"

    "Where's she going to go, Ethan?  She's too weak to go anywhere."
Melinda argued while she struggled to unfasten the waist restraint.

    "What are you going to do with her?"

    "I'm going to put her with him."

    Rupert clamped his hands over Melinda's, effectively stopping her from
completely freeing Scully.

    "No you are not!"  He shouted at her.

    "Ethan.  If you want her to beg for her life, which you obviously do,
the only one who can get her to do that  -- is him."  Melinda gestured
toward Mulder.

    Rupert paused for a moment and then helped Melinda remove the restraint.
Ethan grabbed Scully by the back of the neck and roughly pulled her off the
table.  Unable to get her balance, Scully crumpled to the floor.

    "Dammit Rupert!  Haven't you done enough to her?"  Mulder yelled.

    "No Agent Mulder,"  Rupert snarled, literally stepping over Scully on
the floor to get into Mulder's face.  "I haven't done enough to her.  I
haven't done nearly enough to her."  Rupert turned and grabbed Scully by the
hair.  She moaned as he pulled her to her feet.  Melinda rushed to her and
helped him to support her as Rupert pulled her to Mulder.  "And if you do
truly care about her, you'll use this time I'm giving you to teach her to
beg,"  he spat.

    Rupert pushed past Melinda and Scully and left the room, ripping the
curtains down behind the now empty exam table.

    Melinda waited until he was gone before lowering the bed Mulder was in
to a horizontal position.  Carefully, she helped a weakened Scully onto the
bed with Mulder.  Scully immediately curled her body around his, resting her
head on his chest.

    Melinda turned to leave the room.

    "Melinda?"  Mulder asked hopefully one last time.

    She turned to him.  Her face sorrowful, but her eyes empty.  She shook
her head and left the room.

    Mulder ducked his head and rested his cheek on top of Scully's head.

    "Scully,"  he whispered softly.  "You are so stubborn.  Why do you have
to be so stubborn?"  His voice broke on a half-choked sob.  Because if you
weren't, you wouldn't be my Scully."  Mulder said, answering his own

    "Are they gone?"  She asked, her voice so soft that he had to strain to
hear her.

    "Yes.  It's just you and me."

    Scully began to wiggle and squirm her way up Mulder's body and toward
the top of the bed.

    "What are you doing?"

    "Saving your ass," she said directly into his ear.  "So then maybe you
can get me the hell out of here."

    "How are you going to open the cuffs?"  He asked, now eye level with her

    "The key," she answered, opening her hand and revealing the small metal
key.  "Melinda gave it to me."

    Scully reached up and unlocked the cuffs binding his wrists.  Mulder
carefully shifted Scully lower on the bed and began to unbuckle the belt
holding his waist.  Next he unstrapped his ankles and climbed off the bed.
Tenderly he lifted Scully off the bed.  Pulling the sheet from the mattress,
he wrapped it around her tiny frame.

    "Can you walk?"

    "I think so,"  she answered honestly.

    "Let's see what you can do."

    Mulder lowered her to the floor, keeping a strong grip around her waist.
She put weight on her feet and was thankfully able to stand.

    He released her briefly, only to duck behind the bed and grab the gun
that was on the table.  She reached out and grabbed their badges, steadying
herself by gripping the table.

    "Only one," he reported to her, snaking his arm around her again and
leading her to the door.  He stopped only once to grab her shoes and help
her to put them on.

    They had almost reached the back door when Scully stumbled over the
fallen curtain.  Mulder bent to help her up unaware of his approach until
the madman's knee forcibly connected with his stomach.  Getting the upper
hand, Rupert grabbed the gun and shoved Mulder to the floor.

    "Going somewhere?  I think not!"  He exploded, grabbing Scully by the
arm and yanking her to her feet.  Wobbly she stood next to him, the gun
pressed to her back.  "Move and I'll kill her," he warned Mulder.
"Melinda!"  The madman screamed.

    His wife hurried through the doorway, caught off guard by what she saw.

    "Come here Melinda," he beckoned.

    Melinda approached, hesitantly.  She stood eye to eye with him.

    "Help me get her back to the table."

    Melinda turned to take Scully from him and was unprepared for the
crashing blow as his fist connected with her cheekbone.  She fell at his
feet and Rupert viciously struck out with his foot and kicked her in the

    "How did she get the key to the cuffs, Melinda?  You almost ruined this
whole night.  Don't you understand," he pushed her toward Mulder with his
foot.  "Nothing matters but this.  This experiment is the only thing that
means anything to me, and you tried to take it away from me."

    "Rupert!"  Mulder warned, putting himself between Ethan and Melinda.

    "Shut up!"  He shouted.  He pressed the gun more firmly into Scully's
back causing her to wince in pain.

    "You never understood.  All these years of perfecting this procedure and
you throw it away.  You know how important this is.  All those years in that
lab, this is the only thing that kept me going.  The only thing that made me
want to get out of bed in the morning.  The only thing I live for.  You
tried to take that away from me."

    Rupert was becoming agitated again and Mulder watched him closely,
waiting for an opportunity to strike.  It came sooner than he thought it
would.  Mulder watched Rupert push Scully toward the exam table, her feet
still tangled in the cords of the drapes on the floor.  He bent with
her to untangle her feet when Scully used as much strength as she could
summon to elbow him in the throat.

    Rupert was knocked off balance and that was the only opportunity Mulder
needed to attack.  Mulder leaped and threw Rupert to the floor.  The gun
skidded across the floor to the far end of the room.  Scully fell to the
side and while the two men struggled, she began to crawl toward the gun.

    The two men battled on the floor.  Just when Scully thought that Mulder
had the upper hand, Rupert would rally.  Mulder shoved Rupert hard with his
hands to his chest and the older man flew backward, knocking over one of the
many tables throughout the room.

    The Bunsen burner crashed to the floor.  The glass vial of liquid
smashing into pieces and the flame igniting the curtain still hanging on the
side wall.  Rupert picked up a piece of the shattered vial and brandishing
it as a weapon, he advanced toward Mulder.  Backing away, Mulder
accidentally pushed another beaker to the floor, torching the curtain on the
opposite wall.

    The room was rapidly filling with smoke and flame.  Scully pushed
herself forward to reach the gun, pausing she turned to see Rupert standing
over Mulder holding the jagged glass.  The smoke stung her eyes and as she
turned away -- a gunshot exploded in the room.

    Scully watched Rupert look down in surprise at the red stain spreading
across the front of his lab coat.  She looked up to see Melinda holding the
gun, tears streaming down her face.

    "I'm your husband," he shrieked at her as he fell to his knees.

    "My husband's dead."  She raised the gun and fired it at him a second

    Rupert's body sagged to the floor.  Mulder quickly approached Melinda.

    "Melinda -- give me the gun," he requested holding his hand out to her.
His voice was calm and steady, but his eyes revealed his apprehension as he
watched the flames spread.

    She looked away from Ethan's body and handed the gun to Mulder.  The
flames now covered three of the room's four walls and were licking hungrily
at the ceiling.  Mulder crouched down to the floor and helped Scully to her

    "Come on, there's only one way out of here."  Melinda instructed, moving
toward the door behind the exam table.

    Flames rolled across the ceiling like storm-tossed waves across an
indifferent sea.  Mulder picked Scully up into his arms and rushed to the
door.  Melinda stopped briefly over Ethan's body.

    "Do you want me to get him out?"  Mulder asked her.

    "No," she shook her head.  "He belongs here."

    Melinda led them through the dark basement corridors while the fire
continued to spread, devouring the rotting structure.  The smoke in the
hallway was becoming thick.

    "It's getting hot in here.  Are you all right?"  Scully asked her
partner, fully aware of his fear of fire.

    "I always said I would walk through fire for you if you needed me to,
Scully.  I just never thought you would take me literally."  He spoke, his
brow wrinkled in concentration as he traveled through the dark hall.  This
was one of his own many private versions of hell, trapped in a burning
smoke-filled house.  He fought against the over-whelming urge to give into
the paralyzing fear.  There was only one reason his brain continued to
function and his legs continued to carry him forward -- the woman in his

    A flight of stairs brought them up to the ground floor of the house.
The fire was already there, engulfing the hallway.  Mulder clutched Scully
tighter in his arms and followed Melinda toward the front door.

    Melinda opened the door and held it open against the wind of the still
raging storm.  Mulder took Scully out onto the front porch and wrapped the
sheet more tightly around her to shelter her from the sharp biting

    Mulder turned in time to see Melinda close to the front door of the
house and lock herself inside.

    "Melinda!"  Mulder yelled above the storm.  He stepped up next to the
door, Melinda met his eyes through the smudged cracked glass window.  She
placed her hand on the glass.  Scully reached out and put her hand on the
outside of the glass -- opposite Melinda's.  Scully met the woman's eyes.
They were no longer void of emotion.  Melinda's eyes brimmed with
determination, resignation -- and something else Scully didn't recognize at
first, but then realized was peace.

    "Let's go Mulder.  She's not going to leave him."

    Mulder took one last look at the woman behind the glass and stepped off
the porch into the storm.  He carried Scully down the broken sidewalk and
didn't turn around until they had reached the road.

    He saw the flames inside the windows of the house.  Pulling Scully
closer to him, he turned and headed up the hill back to the car.  He hoped
the house burned all the way to hell.

    The rain beat against the gravel and water ran in streams down the road.
Mulder trudged up the hill, fighting the storm.  Scully shivered in his

    "Where are we going?"  She asked.

    "The car.  It'll be dry and we can get your bag and you can change.  I
need to figure out a way to get you to a hospital.  I'll drive on the rims
if I have to."

    "No hospital, Mulder."  Scully insisted.

    "You're going to the hospital."

    "Mulder, my life has revolved around hospitals." Scully pulled her hand
out from under the wet sheet and cupped his cheek.  "I don't want to go to a
hospital.  Not tonight."

    "You can barely walk."

    Scully struggled to get out of his arms, wanting to prove him wrong.
His arms only tightened around her.

    "Fine, no hospital.  Hold still."

    She settled against his chest again and Mulder continued his journey to
the car.

    Once there he carefully put Scully in the back seat and grabbed their
bags and the emergency first aid kit from the trunk.  Climbing in the back
seat next to her, he closed the door.

    "Jesus, Scully, do you think we've ever been this wet?"

    "Cold," she muttered, her teeth chattering loudly.

    "I know.  We need to get you warmed up."

    "Too bad we don't have one of those sleeping bags."  Scully eyed him
coyly, her eyes peeking up above the wet sheet.

    Mulder turned and grinned at the memory before rummaging through her bag
for some dry clothes.

    "Remind me when I get back to DC that my first trip is to an army
surplus store."

    Mulder gave up searching through her bag and pulled a sweatshirt from
his bag.  He unwrapped the sheet from around her and threw it on the floor
of the car.  He helped her into the sweatshirt, rolling up the sleeves for

    "Thank you," she whispered.

    "Any time."

    Mulder climbed into the front seat, Scully trying not to grin at him as
his head hit the top of the car.  He turned the key in the ignition.  The
sputtered and then was silent.  He turned the key again -- again the car
sputtered and died.

    "Do you think it's flooded?"  Scully asked from behind him.

    Mulder scowled at the pun and glanced at her in the rear view mirror.
She was quite a sight, wet hair, bundled up in his sweatshirt -- beautiful.

    Still looking in the mirror, Mulder saw the flashing red and blue lights
of a squad car pulling up behind them.

    "Still got our badges in your pocket?"

    Scully handed him his badge and he took it from her, holding her hand
for a long moment.

    "I'll be right back," he promised her.

    Scully watched Mulder get out of the car before she lay her head back
and rested.

    After a couple of minutes Mulder opened the back door and grabbed their

    "Do we need anything else?"

    Scully was silent, her eyes closed.


    Mulder dropped the bags and crawled across the seat to her.

    "Hmmm..." she muttered not opening her eyes.  "I'm so tired, Mulder."

    Mulder let out a sigh of relief and passed the three bags to the sheriff
standing behind him in the rain.

    "I know you're tired, Scully.  You go ahead and sleep."  Mulder gathered
her up into his arms and carried her to the awaiting squad car.  He climbed
in the backseat and held Scully in his lap.

    "Agent Mulder?"  The sheriff questioned.

    "We need to get her to the nearest hospital," he said before settling
back in the seat and tucking her head beneath his chin.

--- ---

    But still it rained.  The thunder and lightning had made peace with each
other, but still it rained.  The sun had set several hours ago, replacing
the gray sky with a deep, dark black.  The moon -- although not as full as
it had been two nights ago -- was beginning to appear through the clouds.

    The wipers pushed the water from the windshield of the squad car,
occasionally squeaking against the glass.

    Sheriff Monroe was idly making conversation by filling Scully in on what
had occurred during her absence as he drove.

    "The fire department and a rescue squad got out to the house.  The
structure itself was still standing, probably due to the rain, but the
inside of the house was gutted by the fire.  We didn't find any survivors,
and hell, we wouldn't have found any of the bodies for a good day or two if
it hadn't been for Agent Mulder.  He led us to the two in what used to be
the lab.  It was a bit trickier to find the rest.  It will be a long
identification process.  We're going to start by trying to match the people
reported missing with the remains of those we found.  I still can't

    The sheriff continued to speak and Mulder tried to concentrate on what
the man was saying, but all of his concentration was focused on Scully.

    He could see her out of the corner of his eye.  She was sitting as far
away from him as the limited space in the backseat of the car allowed.  Her
shoulder was pressed against the window of the door.  Her back was ram-rod
straight, her shoulders squared, her arms crossed, her chin set, her lips
pursed and her eyes looking only straight forward.  He knew that the
position she was stubbornly holding must be hurting her tired body a great
deal.  He had realized that the decision he made would have ramifications,
but he hadn't expected this.  Scully was furious, and he was the source of
her anger.

    She had spent thirty-six hours in the hospital.  Scully hadn't spoken
two civil words to him since she had woken up in the emergency room bay.  In
his own defense, he justified, he hadn't *promised* her that he wouldn't
take her to the hospital.

    When he had been sure she was in good hands, he had joined the fire
department back at the house.  At least there he had felt like he could be
of some help.

    The doctors had poked and prodded.  They had run tests and taken her
blood.  They had deemed her very lucky to be alive and against their
recommendations, she had signed herself out.  Mulder wasn't sorry that he
had taken her to the hospital, but the look on her face told him that he
would be.

    The sheriff slowed the car and pulled up in front of the local motel he
had suggested.

    "Agent Mulder, I called ahead and John said he would have the rooms
ready for you.  You just need to pick up the keys.  Unfortunately, the
electricity is still out in the area.  They hope to have it back up by

    "I'm sure it will be fine.  I'll get the keys and be right back."

    Mulder opened the car door and looked hopefully at Scully -- her eyes
stayed focused straight ahead.

    Getting out of the car, Mulder ran through the rain and into the motel
office.  John, as promised, was waiting.  Mulder signed for the rooms and
took the keys.  He walked back outside into the rain and saw Scully standing
under a nearby awning, their suitcases and the first aid kit from the car at
her feet.

    "Where is Sheriff Monroe?"  Mulder asked, ducking under the shelter with

    "He got a call," she answered simply.  "He said he would make sure the
garage delivers the car tomorrow."

    "He just left you here?"  Mulder asked, angry at the man's

    "Mulder, I told him to go," Scully explained, her words curt.  She
carefully bent and picked up the emergency kit, the smaller of the three
bags.  "Where are the rooms?"

    "Over there,"  Mulder pointed across the parking lot to an adjacent set
of rooms.  He scanned the area and saw that the only way to the rooms was
across the lot -- out in the rain.  Scully came to the same conclusion.  She
stepped out from under the awning.  Wearily and with caution, she began
walking across the pavement.  Mulder lifted her bag and put the strap over
his shoulder.  He picked up his suitcase and in three steps he caught up to
Scully.  He put his free hand in the small of her back and slowly they
walked through the rain.

    She felt his familiar touch and although she was still angry with him,
it comforted her.  The rain washed over her skin.  The pain-killers
the doctor had insisted she take were beginning to have an effect.  She was
becoming disoriented and it was taking all of her concentration to continue
moving forward.  She knew Mulder could have easily crossed the lot faster
than they were currently moving.  She was grateful that he stayed by her

    It wasn't that he had taken her to the hospital that made her angry.  No
matter how much she had wanted to deny it -- she had needed a doctor.  It
was that he had done it without any respect for her wishes.  He didn't take
her to the hospital because *she* needed to go; he took her because *he*
needed her to go.  If she stopped being angry at him for long enough she
knew she would realize that she was being irrational, but if she stopped
being angry she would have time to think about what had almost happened.  It
was easier being angry.

    They reached the door to the room that would be hers.  Scully rested
against the door frame and watched Mulder open the door.  She had an idea of
how guilty she was making him feel -- his teeth had been working over-time
on his bottom lip since she woke up in the hospital.

    Mulder set their bags inside the room and held out his hand to help her
inside.  Scully slowly crossed the threshold, ignoring Mulder's offering of

    She stepped past him and sat down on the bed, her muscles screaming at
the exertion from just the short walk.  She watched Mulder step into the
bathroom and retrieve a towel.  She took it and tried to dry her hair and
blot some of the excess water from Mulder's sweatshirt, which she still

    Mulder moved about the room, lighting a candle and setting it on the
bed-side table.  She turned her head when she no longer heard his
movements.  Mulder was standing next to the bed, silent.  After a moment, he
lifted his hands to his hips and walked to stand in front of her.

    "You would have done the same thing," he insisted.  "If the situation
had been reversed, you would have done the same thing.  I had to know that
you were going to be all right."

    She sighed, closing her eyes.  She didn't want to fight with him.  After
everything they had been through -- she didn't want to fight with him.  She
let out a long deep breath, letting her anger travel from her with it.  She
opened her eyes and looked up at him.

    "You're right.  I would have done the same thing," she admitted.  "You
were right to take me to the hospital.

    He watched her for a moment -- things with Scully usually weren't this
easy.  He nodded his assertion.

    "Mulder?"  Scully glanced around the room and toward his bag.  "If you
just checked us into the motel, where did you sleep last night?"

    "The chair outside your hospital room," he answered shyly.

     It was her turn to be silent at his admission.

    "Scully, you're supposed to be resting.  I can tell the medication is
making you tired."

    "I need to take a shower," she decided, thinking out loud.

    Scully tried to stand.  It was on her second failed attempt that she
felt his hand on her arm helping her off the bed.

    "Thanks," she muttered, angry at herself for being so weak.  Unsteady in
her movements, Scully felt Mulder's hand remain on her arm.  "Mulder, you're
hovering," she accused, the bitterness toward her own weakness suddenly
misdirected at him.  She regretted her words the instant she looked into his

    Mulder looked down at her, his feelings in turmoil.  Frustration and
anger took momentary control of his demeanor.  He abruptly released her arm
and turned his back on her.

    "I watched you die," he began softly.  "I watched you die and there was
nothing I could do about it.  I had to watch him hurt you...again...and
again...and again."  His voice grew in intensity and volume but his words
were broken.  He turned to face her then, his eyes wet with unshed tears but
also full of animosity at her for not understanding that he needed to be the
one to take care of her now.  "Excuse the fuck out of me if I hover!"

    The air was charged with intensity.  Tension that broke only when Mulder
brought his hands to his face and hung his head filled the room.

    "I'm sorry, Scully.  So sorry," he muttered through his fingers as he
shook his head in remorse for yelling at her.

    She reached out to him and laced her fingers with his, pulling his hand
away from his face.

    "It's ok, Mulder.  I'm going to be fine.  It's over.  It's all over."

    He pulled her into his arms and hugged her close to him.  He held her
and felt her arms circle his waist.  It was over.  Suddenly, all the energy
drained from his body and he was over come with what he might have lost.

    "I don't know what I would have done," he said stumbling over the words.
"I can't imagine life..."

    Scully pulled away from him.  Reaching up, she placed her hand behind
his neck and pulled his head down so that she could kiss his forehead.

    "Don't imagine," she whispered against his skin.  She tangled her hand
in his hair and he rested his head on her shoulder.  They stood like that
for several minutes before she pulled away from him.

    "Mulder, I'm so tired.  We both need to get into some dry clothes and
get some sleep."  Mulder nodded his head, tucking a stray piece of her hair
behind her ear.  "But first, I need to take a shower.  Could you please put
my bag in the bathroom?"

    He squeezed her hand and picked up her bag from the floor.  He took the
bag and another candle into the bathroom for her.  She kicked her shoes off
her feet, balancing by holding onto a nearby chair.  She walked as quickly
as her battered body would allow her toward the bathroom.  Mulder stepped
out into the room.

    "Call me if you need anything."

    "Thank you," she replied honestly, smiling at him as she walked into the
bathroom.  She closed the door behind her.

    Mulder turned down the blankets on her bed and unlocked her side of the
adjoining doors.  He picked up his bag and went back out into the rain.
Using his key, he let himself into his room, identical to hers.  Throwing
his bag on the bed, he immediately unlocked his door adjoining her room.  He
opened both doors and began stripping off his own wet clothing.  When all of
his clothes, except his boxers, lay in a wet heap on the floor, he unzipped
his bag and removed his running shorts, a t-shirt and another pair of

    "Mulder?"  Her voice was muffled by the closed door but his senses were
instantly aware of her.  He quickly crossed the distance to the door of her


    "Mulder...I need your help."

    Her voice sounded small and he didn't hesitate to open the door.

    The only light in the room came from the candle he had placed on the
sink.  Scully was sitting on the closed lid of the toilet, her clothes in a
pile on the floor.  The candle light was soft on her skin.  Mulder's
eyes traveled over her, checking to see if she were injured.  She still wore
the white bra and a pair of blue panties.  A towel was laying across her
lap.  Her eyes were cast down towards her feet.

    "Scully?"  His voice was soft, unsure of what she needed.

    "There's only a shower," she explained quietly, gesturing toward the
shower stall in distress.  "I thought if there was a bath tub, I would be
able to sit down, but there isn't.  I don't think I'm strong enough to..."
Her voice faded and he watched her shoulders rise as she took a breath to
muster up her courage.  "Could you help me?"  She asked in one quick rush,
raising her head to look him in the eye.

    His heart went out to her, knowing how hard it had been for her to ask
him for help.  Her eyes returned to the floor and he knelt in front of her,
taking her hands in his.

    "Scully, why don't you wait until you're stronger?  Come on, I'll help
you get into bed."

    Her eyes flew to his, her head shaking in refusal.

    "I can still feel him, Mulder."  Her voice was soft yet urgent.  "I can
still feel his fingers on my throat.  I can feel his hand in my hair, his
breath on my cheek and the back of my neck.  I have to wash that feeling
away.  I have to wash him off of me.  Will you help me?"  She asked him
again and he was nodding in agreement before she had even finished the plea.

    "What do you want me to do?"

    "Can you stand next to the shower and make sure I don't fall?"

    "I can do that."  Mulder stood and helped her to her feet.  Once
standing, Scully took a step toward the shower, but her knee buckled and she
sagged into Mulder's arms.

    "Scully..." he began to try to talk her into resting again, but he saw
the determination in her eyes.  There was only one thing to do when Scully
got that look in her eye -- go along with whatever she wanted.

    He kept one arm wrapped tightly around her waist and reached the other
into the shower, turned on the water and adjusted the temperature.  When he
was satisfied that the water wouldn't burn her, he helped her step inside
the shower stall -- then he stepped inside with her.

    "Mulder?"  She questioned, surprised.

    "Hey, a little more water isn't going to hurt me."

    Mulder slid the shower door closed.

    "Hang onto the bar.  I won't let you fall."  Mulder instructed.

    Scully reached out and took the bar.  Mulder moved the shower head so
that the water sprayed down her body.

    "Too hot?"  He asked concerned.

    "No, it's perfect."

    He watched the water slide over her skin, rippling over her flesh.  This
was a bad idea.  He shook his head, he could do this.  He could do this for

    He reached out and grabbed the shampoo she had already placed in the
shower.  He squirted some into his hand -- he smiled -- it smelled like her.

    "Tip your head back."

    Scully did as she was told, gripping the bar tightly.  The water wove
its way through her hair and ran in a hot stream down her back.  She closed
her eyes as Mulder's hands touched her hair.  Gently he spread the shampoo
through the auburn strands and tenderly massaged the scented lather over her
hair.  Stroking in small circles he used his fingertips to cover every inch
of her scalp.

    Stray bubbles began to slide down her forehead and she shut her eyes

    "Sorry," she heard him mutter before she felt a wash cloth wipe the suds

    The water hit her full force again and the bubbles tickled their way
down her shoulders and legs.  When all the shampoo had been rinsed from her
hair, Mulder's attention moved elsewhere.  He grabbed the bar of soap from
the shower's ledge and lathered up the wash cloth and his hands.  His
fingers touched her silken, wet skin.

    A tear slipped from her eye when she realized what he was doing.  His
fingers danced tenderly across her throat.  Gently scrubbing away past
impressions of evil, he continued up to her cheek...caressing... washing.
His hands moved to her back, stopping sharply when he saw how Rupert had
marked her.  Delicately he traced his fingers around the burnt flesh on her
back,  marking where the electrodes had been.

    Anger coursed through him faster than the water could pour from the
spout.  Careful to keep his touch soft, Mulder continued soaping her arms,
her stomach and her back, paying special attention to the areas he had seen
Rupert touch her.  The only touch he wanted her body to remember and know
was his.

    He noticed her arms straining from holding herself up.  He rinsed her
body of the soap and stepped in between her and the shower spray.  He turned
the water off, but only after he directed a blast of ice cold water to hit
him in the chest and run down his body.

    He again secured his arm around her waist and helped her from the
shower.  He dried her hair and wrapped the towel around her before she could
catch a chill.

    Scully sat on the toilet seat and pulled her bag next to her.

    "Get dressed and yell for me when you need me to come and get you."

    Mulder closed the bathroom door behind him.  Quickly he toweled himself
off and dressed in his own room.  Opening the door back into her room, he
saw her sitting on the bed, dressed in her favorite silk pajamas.

    "Hey," he smiled at her.  "Ready to go to sleep?"

    "Past ready," she yawned.

    Scully slipped under the blankets and rested her head on the pillow.
She listened to Mulder blow out the candle and walked back toward his room.
Her eyes flew open and she sat up, still not strong enough to
watch him go.


    "I'm just blowing out the candle in my room, Scully.  I'll be right
back," he promised.

    Finally feeling safe,  Scully turned on her side and closed her eyes.
She heard him come back into the room and pull an easy chair closer to the

    "Mulder," she said, her voice somewhere between sleep and wakefulness.
"You slept in a chair last night because of me.  If I'm going to make you
sleep in my room, at least I can share the bed."

    She stayed awake only long enough to feel his weight settle next to her.

    Mulder woke once during the night, the muffled sounds of her cries
coming from the other side of the bed.  He pulled her to him and tucked her
in his arms.  She quieted almost instantly, and he drifted back to sleep.

    Scully slept soundly through the rest of the night in Mulder's arms.
For the first time in many nights of sleepless hours, Mulder also slept
unscathed by familiar nightmares.

    She woke intermittently during the day.  Each time she opened her eyes,
she saw Mulder.  He brought her medication, helped her from the bed to
the bathroom, and sat with her.  That meant the most to her -- whether she
was awake for five minutes or forty-five minutes, as soon as she opened her
eyes, he would come and sit next to her on the bed and talk to her.  The
conversation was light, but the sentiment was immeasurable.  If she wasn't
careful she was going to be forced to admit that she liked it when Mulder
hovered.  The last time she roused Mulder had been waiting for her with
a hot cup of take out chicken noodle soup.

    Each time she drifted from sleep she was a bit stronger.  This time was
proving to be no different.  Scully lay in bed quietly, not ready to open
her eyes yet.  She stretched her body lazily, pleased to find that she
didn't ache in as many places as she had before.  She heard Mulder at the
table next to her.  Sheriff Monroe had dropped off the car in the afternoon,
as promised, and Mulder had started writing up their report on her lap top.
She smiled at his primitive style of typing, the irregular tap on the keys a
testament that she usually wrote up the reports.  She fell back into the
warmth of sleep knowing that Mulder was close.

    The room was dark when she woke again, silent.  She looked around and
realized that she was alone.  The door to Mulder's room was open a crack and
shadowed light filtered onto the carpet of her room.  Carefully she sat up
in bed, prepared for the pain that thankfully never came.  She swung her
legs over the side of the bed.  Putting weight on her feet, she stood up.  A
little unsteady at first, she quickly gained her balance.  She walked toward
the light in Mulder's room.

    She could see him through the crack in the door.  He was stretched out
on the bed, files spread out all around him, glasses perched on his nose.
He looked deeply engrossed in the particular file he held on his lap.
Though Scully pushed lightly on the door, a loud creak announced her
presence.  Mulder looked up from the file and smiled when he saw her.

    "Finding us everything interesting?"  She asked, looking from his eyes
down to the file he held in his hand.

    "A couple of ritual masses in New England, dancing naked under the full
moon -- it's that time of year," he shrugged.

    "Naked under a haunted moon," she corrected.

    "Haunted moon," he nodded, smiling.  "Do you need anything?"  He asked,
setting the file on the bedside table and placing his glasses on top of the

    "I just woke up and you weren't there," she explained.

    "I didn't want the light to wake you.  How are you feeling?"

    "Better, but I still feel like I could sleep for a month," she admitted.

    "I was about ready to turn the light off myself."  Mulder yawned.

    "Oh, all right.  I'll see you in the morning."  Scully said turning to
go back to her room.

    "Goodnight."  Mulder called to her, turning off the bedside light.

    The darkness of the two rooms engulfed her.  Scully hesitated and then
stepped back into Mulder's room.


    "Yes," he answered, curious.


    Scully walked back to her bed, damning herself as she climbed under the
blankets and sank back into the pillow.  She knew all she had to do was ask
him, yet she couldn't.  The memory of all the nights she suffered alone
visited her as if they were ghosts of the past.  It was her turn, her move,
and after everything they had just been through, she couldn't understand
what was stopping her.

    Mulder stared through the darkness at the door she had just exited.
An inner battle was raging between his heart and his head.  His gut won
again and he threw the blankets off the bed and stood up.  He had followed
her out into that hallway, he could damn well follow her now.  He found
himself hoping the outcome this time would be more satisfying.

    He quietly walked from his room into hers.  Striding across the floor,
he climbed into bed next to her.

    "I thought I would sleep better over here," he explained, hoping he read

her hesitation correctly.

    "I think we'll both sleep better," she whispered, thanking him.

    Scully lay perfectly still in the dark.  The dark.  Darkness covers a
multitude of sins -- she said that to Mulder once.  In horror movies,
darkness summons the creatures of the night.  In literature, it sometimes
represents evil.  Tonight, the darkness was giving her the courage she

    Mulder heard her hand sliding over the sheets.  He reached out and took

    "Mulder, I have a confession to make," she admitted solemnly, her voice
filling the room.

    "You're a really big fan of the ice capades and you've just been afraid
to tell me?"  He joked insecurely.

    Scully was silent, unsure of whether or not to continue.  His hand
squeezed hers in a silent apology.

    "What's your confession?"  He asked her softly.

    "When OPR transferred me to Salt Lake City, and I resigned...do you know
why I did that?"

    "You were tired of the red-tape bullshit?"

    "That's what I told Skinner.  That's what I told you.  I think when I
said it even I believed that was the reason.  I've had time to think about
it since then."

    "Why did you quit, Scully?"

    "When I was re-assigned, I quit because I couldn't leave you.  If I quit
the bureau, I could stay in DC and I would be near you."

    Mulder rewarded her courage by bringing her hand to his lips, kissing
the back softly.

    She wasn't done.

    "That day in the hallway, you told me that I made you a whole person.  I
can do that Mulder, because I wasn't a whole person until I met you.  We
make each other whole."  Her voice was strong and steady.  "I think that's
why it's taken me so long to tell you.  I fought against the idea that I
needed you.  I didn't want to need you.  I didn't want to *need* anyone.  I
can't fight it anymore.  I do need you, Mulder.  You told me that you loved
me.  I wasn't strong enough to tell you then, but I am now.  I love you

    Mulder rolled onto his side, facing her.  Scully reached out with her
hand and stroked his face.  Tears sprang to her eyes when she found his
cheek wet with emotion.

    "When I was strapped to the table, when Rupert played that video tape of
you holding me,"  Scully's voice began to break and Mulder's lips pressed
against the inside of her palm.  "I knew that was what I wanted.  I knew
that if I died that would be what I missed.  I don't want to miss anything
anymore, Mulder."

    The tears were flowing freely from her eyes when Mulder pulled her into
his arms.  He tenderly stroked her forehead and her cheeks with the softness
of his lips.

    He held her tightly while she gave into the sorrow that had built up
over the last three days.  She let go of the pain Rupert had caused her,
finally feeling strong enough to face the hurt.

    Mulder urged her to cry, to sob until she couldn't anymore.  He
whispered words of truth - words of love- softly into her ear.

    Gradually her sobs turned to gasps and finally to hiccups, until she was
able to breath normally again.  Mulder rolled onto his back, still cradling
Scully in his arms.  She rested her head on his chest as he rhythmically ran
his hand up and down her back, soothing her into sleep.

    "You sleep," he quietly whispered, rubbing her back.

    "I do love you," she pledged softly.

    "And I love you," he breathed.

    Soon her breathing slowed to a deep even rhythm.  He still held her, his
heart swelling with her words.  Insecurity creeped into his joy, only to be
pushed firmly away.  She believed in him.  She had stood by him for five
years.  She loved him.

    Peacefully, Mulder fell asleep holding Scully in his arms, knowing that
she loved him.

--- ---

    Fox Mulder was dreaming.  But unlike the usual images that haunted his
sleep, this dream he wanted to cling to -- until it became a reality.  The
feminine smile was enticing, teasing, familiar.  The woman moved close, then
backed away.  She appeared again as if in a fog, near once more, her hair of
flame curling around his fingers.  Sliding his hand from her hair and
letting it drift down the length of her, he stopped when he felt silken skin
beneath his fingertips.

    Then he heard a feminine moan of pleasure.  It lasted only a moment.
Hovering between sleep and wakefulness, Mulder pulled himself far enough
away from the dreamy haze to know where he was, and who was beside him.
Again, he glided his hand down the smoothness that he recognized had been
Scully's thigh, and with lazy pleasure, ran his fingers up it again.  And
again, she sighed with the sound of desire.

    "Scully?"  He murmured.

    Scully didn't want to answer and end the fantasy she'd been drifting
under.  Until this moment, she'd been able to keep her eyes closed.  Needs
she had ignored, fantasies that she had never admitted to, desire that she
had never allowed bombarded her, promising to shatter her senses.

    Deep inside her, a curl of something dangerous began to unwind.  A
white-hot thread of awareness began to uncoil in the pit of her stomach.

    Scully opened her eyes and looked up into the windows of the soul that
seemed intent on devouring her.

    "Mulder,"  she began, her voice breathless with need.  "I think..."

    "Shh..."  Mulder's fingers gently, provocatively, stroked her lips.
"Don't think."

    Her heartbeat staggered, stopped, then started again.  This time for all
the right reasons.  She held her breath as he bent his head toward hers.
Finally.  A kiss.  His mouth on hers.  No interruptions.  Finally.

    The moment his lips met hers, she knew.  This wasn't just a kiss.  This
was an invasion.

    His mouth came down on hers with a raw hunger she had never experienced
before.  Brilliant light exploded within her in a sunburst of color and
sensation.  He did not seek to slowly seduce - there was nothing leisurely
about his kiss.  His lips took and consumed hers, ravaged them.  He did not
seek a subtle entry to her mouth.  Instead, his tongue plunged between her
lips and teeth and demanded the sweetness he knew he would find there.

    Their lips met again and again, open-mouthed, in hungry, wet kisses.
Kisses that melded their lips and their bodies.  Kisses that brought the
searing heat from their lips to burn deep into the heart of their unleashed
passion and spread throughout the rest of their bodies.

    His lips trailed from hers to touch her earlobes and her cheeks, to rest
against her pulse and travel onward along the length of her collarbone.

    The things he did with his tongue...

    Unwilling to relinquish his lips to the rest of her body quite yet she
guided him back to her mouth.  She returned his kiss, eager for it, met the
fever of his pace, gasped and sought him again and again when he broke
away to circle her lips erotically, slowly, with the rim of his tongue.

    She shivered slightly, for when his mouth did not touch her, she was

    She shivered in his arms and he knew the coolness of the air had nothing
to do with the chills wracking her.  He felt it too.  The sense of
rightness.  The sense of belonging.  For the first time in a long, lonely
life, he felt loved.  He would make sure that she too felt loved.

    Her touch sent daggers of heat slicing through him, illuminating the
dark corners of his soul like the light from a thousand suns.

    Reaching for her, he enfolded her in his arms, pulling her tightly to
him.  Her tender flesh molded to his.  He realized how well she fit in the
circle of his arms.  She made him whole.  She had always made him whole.  As
if she had been made for him.  He knew that just as certainly he had been
made for her.

    His breath came harsh and fast.  Anticipation threatened to strangle

    Life was precious and rare.  It could be snatched away at a moment's
notice, snuffed out in a heartbeat.  She wanted to feel she was alive, and
Mulder sensed that as well, and gave her access to his body.  He held
nothing back.

    Time and reality fell away.  His kisses became deeper, more demanding.
He used his hands and his mouth to give her what she wanted, what she
needed.  Heat.  Passion.  Life.  Continuity.  Love.

    She opened her mouth to him and took his breath as her own.

    Her breathing shallow and fast, Scully snaked her hand beneath his
t-shirt and stroked her palm down his chest and watched his eyes
fill with want.

    He looked at her, hunger etched into his features, but hints of
hesitation still in his eyes.  Apparently he was waiting, giving her the
opportunity to change her mind if she wanted to.  She felt him pull away,
put a little physical distance between them.

    "How do you feel?"

    Scully reached out her hand and cupped his face.  His eyes had become
speckled with doubt.  She sighed.  Only Mulder.  Only her Mulder could let
his own self-doubt overshadow the inevitability of this moment.

    "Like I'll explode if you stop touching me.  Touch me, Mulder," she
urged softly, urgently.

    She watched the emotion in his eyes shift and change, darkening with the
passion they had been denied for years.

    Mulder wrapped his arms around her waist and held on as if it meant the
difference between living and dying.

    His lips took hers.  His tongue darted in and out of her mouth, making
breathing impossible and stirring her senses so that she didn't even mind.

    She felt his kiss and his need down to her soul.

    At last, they were willing to explore the magic that happened between
them whenever they were close.  Her body burned with desire.  Her flesh
tingled from his caresses and a damp, aching heat settled between her

    A hunger rose up between them that demanded to be fed.  Gasping for
breath in between long, deliberate kisses, they stripped each other of their

    His body throbbed and ached to become a part of her.  Everything within
him screamed at him to take her.  He knew that she too felt the almost
overpowering desire to become one.  He had never known such need.  His groin
tightened.  His lungs shuddered, barely able to draw enough breath.  He
hungered for her.  Deep in  his soul, he recognized that the had been
waiting for this woman his entire life.

    In one dark corner of her mind, she realized that she was spinning out
of control, but she didn't care.  She wanted to be closer to him.  To feel
his lean, muscled form pressed to her.

    He grabbed her again and pulled her tight against him.  Flesh to flesh,
heat to heat, the fire already raging between them burst into an inferno of

    She had thought that his kiss could sooth the ache within her and help
extinguish the blaze that had been burning in her for so very long.  Now it
seared a trail so hot that it denied her all thought.  All she knew was
longing.  Her soul was on fire, her body was on fire.  She wanted to touch
him, to run her fingers over the breadth of his shoulders, to press her lips
against his chest.  Most of all, she wanted to appease the longing inside
her.  She wanted the emptiness to be filled.

    Hungrily he feasted upon her body.  The brush of his fingers and the
warmth of his tongue raged over the mounds of her breasts, explored contours
of creamy skin, and set fire to the pebble-like peaks of rouge and crimson
that tautened instantly at his touch.

    Hungrily she tasted him in turn, pressing her lips to his shoulders, his
throat, and softly, wetly, drew patterns down the muscles of his chest.

    Her insides twisted, jumbled into a quivering mass of need as he teased
his mouth slowly down her body.  Down past her breasts, trailing over her
stomach and stopping between her thighs.  Scully's fingers curled into the
cotton blanket beneath her.  Mouth dry, breath coming in short, jagged
gasps, she watched, entranced, as Mulder bent his head and took her with his


    At the first touch of his tongue, Scully gasped aloud and jerked in his
arms.  He didn't stop.  His breath brushed against her skin, his lips danced
over the soft, delicate folds of her center as his tongue moved in strong
strokes across the heart of her sex.

    Twisting and writhing in his strong grasp, there was no escape, even if
she wanted one.  She whispered his name brokenly, hardly daring to draw a

    His mouth tormented and delighted her.  His hands invaded and adored.
She drifted helplessly, reaching for the peace she knew waited for her at
the end of this exquisite agony.  And though she wanted -- needed -- the
climax hurtling toward her, she didn't want his ministrations to end.

    Forcing herself to look at him, Scully stared through lust-glazed eyes
at the man caressing her so intimately.  Clearly sensing her gaze on him,
Mulder lifted his head, abandoning her briefly, as if to let her see the
full measure of love shining in his eyes.

    Her heart filled with him and beat strongly against her chest.  She drew
a long, shaky breath.  He dipped his head once more and when his mouth
covered her, the night splintered around her.  Her world rocked, tipped on
its side and threatened to send her crashing over the edge.  But she was
held, safe in the arms of the man she had loved for years.

    Before the last ribbon of satisfaction unwound inside of her, Mulder
returned to her mouth.  Her lips parted for him and her tongue met his
stroke for stroke.  In a wild, desperate joining, their mouths mated, breath
mingling, tongues exploring, caressing movements meant to sooth yet at the
same time enflame.

    Pulling away, Scully, with Mulder's help, rolled him onto his back and
straddled his waist.  The look in her eyes brought a smile of anticipation
to his lips.  It was Scully's turn to play.

    He felt her fingers upon his naked flesh and marveled at the touch,
shuddering as the hot fires of desire snaked through him.

    In the days to come, he would remember this night, remember it with
aching poignancy, and he would tremble anew, thinking of all that he held in
his arms.  For in all the years when they had watched each other and waited,
he had never imagined this.

    She had said that she loved him.   And in that, he had never known a
feeling more exquisite, never known a power so great.  She was sensual,
intelligent, elegant, and beautiful.  In his life, he had never seen himself
as worthy the love she gave him.

    She stroked his chest, her fingers playing down his ribs.  She nibbled
against his lower lip, then rose to meet him in a wild and sweet
open-mouthed kiss that drove almost all his demons from him.

    And still she loved and teased and taunted him with tender kisses upon
his skin, exotic, erotic, decadent kisses.  Moving lower and lower against
him, she touched the pulsing fullness of his sex with her mouth.

    Lightly at first, with kisses that were so soft that they tormented him
nearly to hell -- or was it heaven.  He reached out to her, unable to bear
the bursting sensation, when suddenly she closed her lips hard around him,
and in all his life he had never felt so searing an explosion of pure want.

    The wanting within his eyes touched her as no aphrodisiac could.

    Mulder sat up in bed, his arms grasping for her, his mouth needing her.
She met him, leaned against him and felt his body, hard and eager.

    Desperately, hungrily, his tongue moved in and out of her mouth,
touching, tasting.  He held her mouth with his as if trying to claim her for
his own.  She met his urgency with a wild, overwhelming passion
that threatened to leave her puddled on the bed.   When he finally tore his
mouth from hers, Scully moaned at the loss.

    There were words at last, words that touched her flesh in hot whispers.
They told her that she was beautiful.  They told her that she belonged to
him.  Words of love...and words of raw hunger.

    "Now Mulder," she pleaded in an agonized whisper.  "Hurry.  I have to
feel you inside me, Mulder.  I need..."  Her voice faded into silence.  How
could she possibly explain what she needed when she hardly understood it
herself?  This was more than desire.  More than lust.  Something within her
was clamoring to be a part of him.  To feel him slide his body into hers.
She had never known such want.

    Suddenly he was atop her, his arms around her.  His eyes upon her, he
held himself above her.  Mulder gently pushed his body into hers.  With
deep, long, hard strokes, he claimed her; driving her into a mad rush toward
an orgasm even more fulfilling than the last.  A cry welled up within her,
touched her lips, but never escaped her.

    Scully's fingers dug into his shoulders.  Her head tipped back.  She
wrapped her legs around his hips, crossing her feet at the ankles, pulling
him harder, more closely to her.  Each thrust stroked something deep within
her, something she hadn't even known existed.

    She buried her face against his throat, pulling tighter and tighter
against him.  Arching.  Twisting.  Feeling him with all her length, inside
and out.  He was moving  much too slow, torturously slow, pressing her back
and watching her eyes as he moved against her, seeming to burn inside her
until he touched her womb, her heart, her very soul.

    She hungered, she wanted, she ached.  The sweetness, the ecstasy filled
her until she thought she would die with it, that she must explode.

    And then, he was nearly still, rigid, taut.  He teased her so slowly,
then with startling speed he filled all of her again.  He withdrew and
filled her once again, hard.

    Again, she almost cried out.  But his lips were there, and he kissed
her, his tongue ravishing her mouth to steal sound away.  While the pulsing
shaft of his body moved as hard and hot as molten steel deep into her, one
long, slow stroke -- sinking -- staying there.

    He held perfectly still, buried deep inside her, fighting for control.
An explosive climax was only a breath away and he would be damned if he
would give into the pleasure before she was ready to take that leap with

    In the space of a few heartbeats, he was able to move within her again.
And then there was nothing but the overpowering, driving urge to brand her
as his.  To fill her so deeply, so completely, that even when they weren't
together, he would still be a part of her, as she was a part of him.

    Mulder looked down into her blue eyes and saw the stunned wonder he knew
was written on his own features.  He pressed his mouth to hers and their
bodies raced toward completion.  He swallowed her cries when they were at
last swept over the edge of passion and fell tumbling into peace as he
poured all that he was into her waiting warmth.

    Mulder groaned again as he pulled her into the circle of his arms.  He
lowered his mouth to hers like a dying man seeking salvation.  No point in
denying the truth to himself.  He loved her.  He wanted her.  He needed her.

    Hours blurred together.  The rest of the night passed in a flurry of
lovemaking that only seemed to feed the fires burning between them.
Everytime Mulder thought he was exhausted and beyond experiencing any more,
Scully showed him differently.

    Exhaustion claimed them just before sunrise.  Scully curled up next to
Mulder and rested her head on his chest.  Before the steady rhythm of his
heartbeat could lull her into sleep, she heard him whisper her name.


    "Yes," she answered sleepily.

    "Promise me something?"

    "If I can," she answered honestly.

    "Promise me that the next time there's a haunted moon," he kissed the
top of her head.  "You and I will lock ourselves inside and spend the night
like this."

    "I promise."

    Mulder heard the smile in her voice and he wrapped his arms more tightly
around her.  As the sun rose outside, the lovers fell asleep in each other's
arms.  Safe.  Together -- for together they were complete -- they were

The end