Quis Si

By Trixie

Classification: MSR; AU; A; S
Rating: NC-17
Spoilers: The prologue and epilogue contain spoilers for US7,
through "The Goldberg Variation." The rest of the story is
spoiler free.
Thanks: To Brandon & Narida for the ever informative betas.
To Brynna & Eve for the constant encouragement and nagging.
Dedication: To Eve, without whom this story would not have
made it past the first 30K. (see authors notes at the end of
the story for further fascinating details.)
Summary: "She showed me a world where the sky was purple, up
was down, black was white, and you and I spent the last seven
years without each other."
Disclaimer: I wrote this BEFORE Amor Fati was a glimmer in
anyone's eye. And frankly, I resent seeing ideas I think of
show up on the . . .  Oh. Wrong disclaimer, =apparently=. Um,
I don't own these people who are so brilliantly brought to
life each Sunday night . . . I can't do it! I tried. I really
tried to do a nice, "please don't sue me, Mr. Cah-ter," type
disclaimer, but . . . I ain't no sweathog. And it would, quite
honestly, amuse me to receive a letter from Fox stating that I
somehow "violated" copyright. Suing me. Over fanfic. That'd be
a happy judge, wouldn't it folks?!
Notes: This is NOT a WIP. It =is= finished, it is merely going
through the last stages of beta. I plan to post a few parts,
every other day, until we reach the end, which, calamties
notwithstanding, should be by the time there's a new X-Files
Feedback: All the cool kids are sending it . . .

Prologue: What If

"Love alone is capable of uniting living beings in such a
way as to complete and fulfill them, for it alone takes them
and joins them by what is deepest in themselves." - Pierre
Teilhard De Chardin


"Scully, I've got to go."

It wasn't the first time he'd uttered the phrase. It wasn't
even the first time he'd uttered the phrase in the past five
minutes. She just refused to hear him. Of course, she
wouldn't be Special Agent Dr. Dana Katherine Scully, if she

Glancing up at the sign located just above his head, Mulder
confirmed that this was the place he'd been looking for. He
shook his head. "What'd they do, cloak it?" he muttered out


Oh, right; Scully.

"Nothing, just thinking out loud," he murmured in an absent
tone as he entered the building. The place had popped up out
of nowhere. Mulder had spent the previous hour walking up
and down the street, to no avail. He had kept careful track
of the shops along this row: Pottery Barn, used bookstore,
Radio Shack. This place hadn't been here five minutes ago.
Definitely too spooky to be a coincidence, he decided.

"Mulder, we need to talk," Scully informed him, her voice
adopting that no nonsense quality he'd always respected,
and, in truth, found a tad sexy.

"We =are= talking," he replied glibly. "You say something, I
say something; hell, Scully, we're having a regular old
conversation here."

He knew something was bothering her, and it wasn't his
refusal to give her a straight answer. It was the day before
Christmas Eve, and he hadn't so much as mentioned it.
Usually, he would at least wish her a Merry Christmas,
especially when she was planning a few days out of town to
be with her family.

The prospect of a lonely Christmas had been a good part of
the reason the woman's voice at the other end of his phone
had drawn him out here. Curiosity made up the other part and
combined, they posed an considerable threat.

Scully emitted a sigh, which told him she was definitely not
pleased with that answer. He winced, picturing the coming
scene in his mind. "Mulder," she stated, and he'd never been
more afraid of the sound of his own name.

"Listen, Scully, I've got to go," he said once more in a
vain attempt to buy himself some time. "I promise, we'll
have a nice long talk, about anything you want, as soon as
I'm done."

"What the hell are you doing, anyway, Mulder?" He could hear
her shift the phone and settle deeper into her couch,
preparing to stay with him, over their phones, for as long
as she could.

Containing a chuckle at the image, Mulder pulled his lower
lip between his teeth, debating how much to tell her. "I'm
just doing a little investigating independent of the
Bureau," he hedged, going for a half-truth. What would you
do, he thought absently, if I asked you not to go, to spend
Christmas with me? If there was no case of the missing car
keys, would you willingly attend one of these little
sojourns with me, or is this connection we share all in my

Are we soul mates, or two people who just happen to have an
above-average working relationship?

"And of me?" she countered, and he could =see= the raised

"Scully, you wound me. It's not like that at all. If I
didn't want you to know about it, would I be talking to you
right now?"

"Yes," she answered, without missing a beat. "But that's
beside the point. Care to fill me in? Or at least tell me
where I can have them send the ambulance?"

"Ha ha," he mumbled, warily crossing the threshold of this
mysterious building. It resembled a town house, only it was
a single story. The door was, not surprisingly, unlocked.
Peeking inside the first room he came upon, Mulder tried
again to dissuade Scully from their current conversation..
"This is nothing you'd be interested in, Scully. Trust me.
Definitely as far from normal as you can get."

Over a year later, and the bitterness cup still runneth
over. That had stung, more than he'd admitted at the time.
Something about the holiday season had the power to turn a
man introspective. When Mulder thought about the things that
really mattered in his life, he either became maudlin about
his quest, or about Scully. It appeared that this year, it
was Scully's turn to be maudlin.

"I thought our life was normal," she reminded him softly,
sounding almost indignant.

Another smile came to Mulder, this one much easier than the
last. "It is. For us," he amended. "But this . . . Scully,
this is more of a Spooky Mulder thing. Trust me, you don't
want to know."

"Let me be the judge of what I do and don't want to know,
would you?" Scully suggested none-too-gently.

She was being awfully insistent. "Okay," Mulder gave in. You
asked for it. "I'm presently just outside D.C., visiting the
parlor of a gypsy fortune teller, who may or may not be a
descendant of the Romanoff's. She contacted me early this
morning, to tell me she had seen something extremely
important about my life; something she =must= tell me about
in person," he delivered deadpan. "Oh, and I had to come
today, because she'll be disappearing again tomorrow."

Silence reigned, for a full ten seconds.

"Still there, Scully?" he asked, twisted amusement coloring
his words.

"Mulder, what are you wearing?" she asked, and, had her
voice not been so dead serious, he might've been able to
hold the laughter in.

As it was, he nearly dropped the phone, chuckling into the
receiver. "I'm walking around D.C., in the dead of winter,
wearing nothing but a Speedo. Yourself?"

"I'm lying around my apartment in my Academy sweat shirt.
Nothing but, my Academy sweat shirt." He wasn't sure, but
he'd swear her voice was an octave lower than it had been a
minute ago. Was it his imagination, or had Dana Scully been
flirting with him more consistently than ever before these
last few weeks?

"Scully," he began, his voice only mildly choked.

"Oh, would you look at the time, Mulder? I've got to go.
People to see, suitcases to pack." He could practically see
the wicked smile on her face. "Have fun. Be sure to tell me
all about your fortune."

A dial tone echoed in his ear before he could formulate a
response. It was only then that he realized he hadn't wished
her a Merry Christmas. Oh well. It would give him an excuse
to see her when she got back. He =had= gotten her a gift.
Smiling slightly, he shut the phone and took another look
around the place. Wine colored decor, splashed with a few
shades of purple and blue, gave the place a definite 'gypsy'
feel. Nothing but antique furniture, and an odor like you
might expect in a caravan. Sniffing the air, Mulder wondered
at the odd smell. It was both familiar and foreign, and he
couldn't have described it if his life depended on it.

"Mr. Mulder?" a thickly accented Russian voice appeared out
of nowhere.

Spinning, his eyes landed on a woman, nearly sixty, her
straight salt-and-pepper hair pulled under a scarf. She wore
long, flowing material in layers around her body like
sarongs. He'd never seen colors as vibrant as the reds and
purples that covered her. "Yes," he answered slowly.

"Alexandra Romanoff," she corrected, extending an arm to
him. "Please, have a seat," she offered, indicating a table
with two cups of what appeared to be tea set out. It was a
fortune telling parlor, he thought, like the kind you'd find
on a midway. "Relax. Drink your tea. We will talk, once you
have finished."

Sitting, Mulder picked up the tea and sniffed it. The
thought that it might not be entirely safe to drink briefly
crossed his mind.  Alexandria laughed, and Mulder got the
impression she was reading his mind. Her next words only
served to confirm that suspicion. "I assure you, Mr. Mulder,
it's perfectly safe. I wouldn't poison the man I've come so
far to meet."

"Far?" Mulder asked, an eyebrow raising, an unconscious
gesture he picked up from Scully. "You're a twenty-minute
cab ride from my apartment."

"Ah, yes, but it has not always been so." She looked at him
carefully. "Haven't you found that to be true, in your life?
Things that are true now, were not true a year, a week, even
a day ago. How long does my being here have to be true for
it to no longer inconvenience me to see you?"

Mulder blinked, following her train of thought with
interest. "I suppose," he began slowly, "that's all in the
eye of the beholder."

"And whose eye is that?" she countered, not missing a beat.
"Yours? Mine?"

"Considering you're the one with something to say, I'm going
with yours," he answered slowly, tamping down on his growing
irritation at her cryptic countenance.

"Very good," she murmured in a complimentary tone.
Ridiculously, he felt pleased by her approval. "Now, drink
your tea."

Not giving it another thought, Mulder brought the cup to his
lips and drank half in one gulp. At her look, he quickly
downed the rest and set the cup back on the table. She held
out her hands, and he acquiesced, passing the cup to her.
"Are you reading tea leaves?" he asked incredulously.

"Hush," she instructed, never lifting her eyes from the cup.

"Hush?" he asked, disbelieving. "Hush?!" Shaking his head,
Mulder began to rise from his seat. "Look, thanks very much
for the tea, it's been a real slice of heaven. If you don't
mind, I'm going to get out of your way--"

"Sit," she shouted, in the lowest whisper he'd ever heard.

Mulder sat, his hands folded neatly on his lap.

"You do not believe I have the ability?" she questioned
softly. "You do not believe I know things about you?"

"I'm willing to believe," he hedged carefully.

"I did not ask for your willingness, Mr. Mulder. I asked if
you believed. Please answer the questions I pose to you."

Mulder's lips tightened. "Fine. No, given the current state
of affairs, I do not believe you."

She nodded once. "Thank you. Now, we will move on to making
you believe me, yes?"

Mulder shrugged. "It's your dime."

"Is it," she murmured, but it wasn't a question. Eyes
narrowing, she snapped her head up. Her gaze probed his
carefully, an intensity lying somewhere in the depths of her
eyes that took his breath away. "Which one are you?" she
asked, her voice sounding almost accusing.

"Excuse me?" Mulder asked, genuinely confused now. A trickle
of apprehension rolled down his spine.

"It's a simple question. Which one are you? The Fox William
Mulder who lost his sister, or the Fox William Mulder who

The question brought him up short. His breath froze in his
lungs and tightened into a viselike grip around his heart.
"What?" he croaked out.

She nodded slowly, giving him a sympathetic look. "I see you
are the one who lost her. I am sorry," she told him gently.

"What do you mean, the one who lost her?" Mulder asked,
getting downright angry now. "How is it possible I didn't
lose her?"

"Another life, Agent Mulder," she murmured, obviously having
decided who he was. "Another life, another time, another set
of circumstances."

"You know what, I've had just about enough of this
bullshit." He moved to stand again.

"Haven't you ever wondered?" she asked in the most enticing
tone he'd ever heard. "Haven't you ever wanted to know what
life would have been like if you'd never lost her? I can
show you. I can show you what it would have been like, had
things been . . . different. I can even let you live it, for
awhile. Not too long, but . . .. just the right amount of
time. The right moment in time."

Mulder slowly sat back down and folded his hands on the
table before him. He wasn't sure he believed her, but that
was beside the point. She'd gotten him thinking again about
something that he'd long since blocked from of his mind.
He'd stopped wishing for impossible dreams long ago. He'd
had to, to keep himself sane. Resigned, he only chased
rainbows he had hope of catching. Yes, they were still lofty
goals, but they were at least attainable. He'd put away
games of 'what if' ages ago. But now the question was posed,
once more, in his mind.

What if things were different?

"How?" he asked, intrigued, despite the little voice inside
his head that was telling him to get his ass out of there.
That voice sounded like Scully.

"She is still there," Alexandria told him, as though it was
something he'd want to know.

"Who?" Even as the question passed his lips, he knew the

"The woman you call Scully," she answered simply. "She is
always there, always with you." A smile, temptation
incarnate, spread across her face. "Would you like to see
now? I promise, while you're there, you won't know you're
out of place. In fact, you won't even remember this life
until you return to it. It's the chance of a lifetime, Agent
Mulder. The chance to see a world that could have been
yours, if only one thing had been different. One little

"Samantha," Mulder murmured, wondering if he'd ever regain
the ability to form more than one word at a time. A
half-formed George Bailey quip flitted briefly through his
consciousness, but before he could grasp it, she continued.

"Samantha," she agreed. "Your sister's abduction changed
your life, in more ways than simply the obvious. Aren't you
ever curious? Wouldn't you like to know for certain, one way
or another, what your life would have been like?"

"Yes," he answered, before he could stop himself. "Yes, I
want to know," he blurted out, feeling absurdly pleased with
himself for speaking an entire sentence.

"Then so it shall be," she murmured, her voice husky. That
damned smile was firmly in place. "Give my regards to . . ."
a twinkle appeared behind her eyes. " . . . your sister."

Mulder blinked, and everything went dark in his world.


There was a second before Mulder emerged from the darkness,
into the light, where he remembered everything. From the
moment he and Sam had sat down to play Stratego, right up
until he felt himself sit back in that chair, the taste of
herbal tea fresh in his mouth. Images from his life flashed
through his mind; his sister calling his name, begging him
to save her; growing up on the Vineyard; his father's
hateful words of blame; the occasional backhand. And his
mother's eventual deconstruction, the loss of her daughter
too much for the woman's soul to bear.

Oxford, snippets of conversations long buried he'd had with
Phoebe Greene. Those conversations had helped destroy what
had remained of his psyche; had shaped the way he would
forever deal with women. No one got too close. A glib
demeanor would become his best defense against the opposite
sex. Diana's place in his life, and the few that came before
her, were extraneous at best. He loved her; the best way he
knew how at the time. But his heart and his mind had taken
too great a beating for too many years prior to meeting her.

By the time Dana Scully came along, it was amazing anything
of Fox Mulder the man had remained. He had, in fact,
believed all he had left was Special Agent Mulder. She'd
proved him wrong within a matter of months. Once he'd
realized she wasn't trying to destroy him, he'd tried to let
her in. He'd really, really tried. He'd tried to drop the
walls and the bullshit; had even succeeded a few times. But
these defenses, his hard-won resistance to matters of the
heart were too firmly entrenched. Even Dana Katherine Scully
couldn't eradicate them completely; couldn't completely heal
his soul or allow him to cross the distances that separated

Snippets of conversations floated through Mulder's mind;
whispers of spying and trusting, resisting and denying,
hoping and praying, fighting and dying. Bits of these words
played on a continuous loop, interspersed with tracks of
laughter and tears, and the notion of someone having the
strength of someone's beliefs.

As the fraction of a second it took for all this to occur to
Mulder ended, he blinked, dimly aware of someone calling his
name; though not the way he last remembered her calling his
name . . .

And then, Special Agent Fox Mulder faded away.


Chapter 1 -Again for the First Time

"Why did I love her? Because it was her. Because it was me."


"Fox? Yoo-hoo, Earth to Foxy Loxy? Are you even listening to
me, dim wit?"

Sighing, Mulder switched the phone from one ear to another
and glanced around the room. "I'm trying not to," he
muttered, attempting to keep his voice down. "Have you
forgotten I'm actually supposed to be listening to the
people speaking at this conference?"

Samantha was the only person Mulder knew who could roll her
eyes over the phone and make you hear it. "Yea, right. Like
you care about what anyone else has to say. Don't bullshit
me Fox - I'm your sister. I actually =know= you."

"Yea, well maybe I care about =this= speaker," Mulder
clarified, his eyes automatically moving to the woman on

"Is she hot?" Sam asked, her interest piqued, as he'd known
it would be.

"Why do you assume the speaker's a she?" he countered.

"Cause you're not gay," she answered, as though it were the
most obvious thing in the world. "And you, Fox William,
don't give a damn what anyone else thinks about your field
of choice. Unless we're discussing your career, part two,
and you're drooling over some author you've always

"It just so happens she isn't in my field, Samantha Ann,"
Mulder informed his nosy little sister. He gritted his teeth
when he realized he'd slipped up.

"Well then," Samantha continued smugly, "is =she= hot?"

"Drop dead gorgeous," he admitted, sighing with resignation.
"But not in a conventional way," he hastened to add. "She's
got this voice . . . she knows her shit. Her notes are
together. This lecture -- what little I've heard of it --"
he added pointedly, "is phenomenal. A =lecture=, Sam. I
think a lecture is phenomenal. I'm almost . . ." he grinned
at the thought that crossed his mind. "I'm almost bewitched
by her."

Samantha let out a whistle. "Wow. Not bad for someone who
hasn't even met my big bro.  I'm assuming you haven't met
her yet."

"You assume right. In fact, I hadn't even seen her until
about fifteen minutes ago. Then, before I could work up a
case of good old-fashioned lust, my baby sister called and
threw a bucket of cold water on my mood."

"I'm crying for you," Samantha assured him, sounding not
even the least bit misty. "And I ain't your baby nothing."

"My Oxford-educated self cringes at your grammar," Mulder
murmured dryly.

"Am I boring you?"

It took Mulder a moment to realize he was being addressed by
someone other than his sister. Glancing up, he found a pair
of the most exquisite, annoyed blue eyes glaring back at
him.  "Uh-oh, busted," he muttered quietly.

"Is that her?" Sam asked. "Ooo, she sounds scary."

"Would you like to share what you find so fascinating on the
other end of that phone with the rest of us who gathered
here to learn and share ideas?" He wasn't sure, but Mulder
thought she might be pissed. It was hard to tell. A single,
elegant brow was arched. Otherwise, she was totally

Hanging up on his sister without a pang of remorse, Mulder
put his phone away with slow, deliberate motions. "Are you
insinuating I haven't been paying the attention your
dissertation deserves?" he asked, quirking a playful eyebrow
back at her.

"Not at all," she countered, shifting her weight in order to
glare at him better. "I'm insinuating that you haven't heard
a damn word I've said."

Quirking his lips slightly, Mulder inclined his head. Oh
yeah, she was definitely pissed. "I heard 'thank you, ladies
and gentlemen for being here this afternoon'," he pointed
out helpfully.

She looked heavenward. "You've heard nothing of
significance," she clarified.

"Would you care to fill me in on what I've missed?" Mulder
challenged, rising from his seat to stand before the entire
auditorium of doctors, from a variety of different fields.
"Because I assure you," he stated clearly, something
twinkling in his eyes just for the woman behind the podium,
"I am fascinated with whatever you have to say."

She sighed and removed her glasses, causing a lock of near
shoulder-length red hair to fall over her eyes. She tucked
it back behind her ear, sending Mulder a look that cut him
deeply. It was sad and long-suffering, as though she'd done
this a thousand times and, frankly, was quite sick of it.
"Look," she began slowly, "it's clear you've decided you're
not interested in my discussion. I don't really care. I'd
just appreciate your not disrupting my paper."

"I apologize if I offended you," Mulder began, edging his
way out of the aisle to stand about twenty feet in front of
the podium, and a considerable ways below it. "It wasn't my
intention. You're the one that called attention to me - I
was conducting a quiet conversation on my cell phone."

"You were being anything but quiet," she countered, glancing
around the room for support. A few reluctant heads bobbed.

Mulder inclined his head forward, intending it as a gesture
of surrender. "All right. I disrupted your lecture." He gave
her a winsome smile. "I would be eternally grateful if you'd
quickly recap the pertinent points, so that I might have the
ability to make an educated statement concerning said

Out of nowhere, she grinned, and it nearly knocked him dead
where he stood. Now =that= was what he called the kind of
smile that could light up a room. "I suppose any man who
could spit that out without sounding ridiculous deserves a
second chance," she murmured, once again placing her glasses
on the end of her nose.  "The pertinent points," and there
was definite amusement in her tone as she said that, "as you
say, are simple: we spend billions upon billions of dollars
to travel to Mars and study rocks. We grow ears on the backs
of rats and call it a scientific breakthrough. We travel to
the moon on a near weekly basis, for no other reason than,
'because we can.'" She swallowed, and appeared to gather her
thoughts. "My hypothesis is that if we took even one tenth
of the funds given to NASA on a yearly basis, and put that
toward finding a cure for cancer, and toward AIDS research,
we could be well into eliminating the two greatest plagues
of the twentieth century."

"Are you suggesting that space research is unnecessary?"
Mulder asked.

"Are you suggesting that it's necessary?" she countered.
"When you look at all that needs to be done right here on
Earth, how can we look to the stars? Why squander our money,
time, and effort, on frivolous pursuits, when we might
actually do some good down here?"

"I don't believe the exploration of space is frivolous,"
Mulder stated flatly. "The very core of the human condition
-- the indestructible center that defines us -- is our
ability to grow, to learn, to adapt to the way we and our
environment changes. How can you be so sure that a cure for
cancer doesn't lie somewhere beyond the stars?"

"I suppose I can't be," she admitted, though there was
definitely a grudging undertone to the admission. "But how
can you be so sure that it does? We could be wasting
valuable resources on what amounts to nothing more than a
lot of grown men wanting to play cowboys in space." She
shook her head. "I'm not saying we stop growing, or
exploring completely. I'm merely suggesting we might want to
fix some of the things here, with the means we have, rather
than chase pipe dreams in the sky."

"It's more than mere pipe dreams to a lot of people," Mulder
reminded her. "Man walking on the moon is one of the
greatest achievements of this century, and yet the idea
would have been unthinkable even a hundred years ago. Who
knows what might come next? Currently, we can travel to
planets other than our own; we can orbit our own planet.
These are the kinds of things that Jules Verne wrote about
over a century ago. These are the kinds of things men and
women used to dream about. We live in these times; it is our
responsibility to support the quest forward. We stand at the
threshold of the next Millennium. The question becomes, are
we prepared to enter into it with open minds, or do we
merely wish to bury our heads in the sand and pretend that
there is nothing out there?"

As she shook her head in what he determined to be reluctant
amazement, Mulder felt that this woman he didn't even know
respected him, just a little bit, despite their
disagreement. The fact that she actually made him listen to
a point of view so drastically different from his own made
him respect her almost instantaneously. "You have
illustrated my point for me," she began slowly, speaking to
Mulder as though he were a very small child. "We have
already accomplished all that we're going to accomplish with
space travel. It's time to put aside flights of fancy and
concentrate on things that are real."

"I believe that what we can imagine is real," Mulder
insisted. "That what can be imagined, can be achieved. Just
as you believe we could do more good with both feet planted
firmly on solid Earth, I believe that without allowing
ourselves to fly on occasion, there's nothing left worth
fighting for."

A tiny smile curved her lips. "Perhaps we should agree to
disagree then," she proposed softly. "I do thank you for
taking this seriously." She glanced out at all those
assembled. "I believe my paper has been delivered in its
entirety, though certainly not in the way I'd intended," she
added dryly, sending Mulder a pointed glance as she gathered
her papers together. She quickly exited the stage.

Moving faster, Mulder made his way to the side, and offered
her a small, conciliatory smile. "Anytime," he murmured.

She raised a slightly confused eyebrow. "Anytime . . .
what?" she asked, looking thoroughly amused with him.

"I'll take you seriously anytime," he murmured. "Or, if
you'd prefer, I'll take you goofy. Hell, why don't I just
take you to dinner?"

"Subtle," she complimented sarcastically. "Not to mention
managing to sound original and corny at the same time."

"You wound me." Mulder began to walk alongside her as she
headed toward the side exit. "If you won't agree to dinner,
will you at least give me a name?"

Her lips pursed as she considers him. "Dr. Scully," she
replied, allowing a small smile to curve her lips.

"Kinda formal, isn't it?" he fished, hoping for a first

"Yes, it is," she answered brightly, walking at a slightly
brisker pace.

"I'm Dr. Mulder," he added, as though she'd asked. "So Doc,"
he began, after they've walked a few more feet in silence.
"How about dinner?"

Scully stopped finally and turned toward him, an incredulous
look on her face. "You don't give up, do you?" she asked,
and he could tell the question was rhetorical. She sighed.
"I can't imagine why you're still interested in me and I
promise, were that I were a different person, I'd be
flattered by your attentions--"

"Were that you were a different person?" Mulder asked,
making fun of her just a little bit. "Look, turn me down if
you must, but at least have the decency to be flattered as
=you=." He frowned slightly. "And why wouldn't I be

"Other than the fact that I dissected and refuted your
entire belief system in there, you mean?" she asked.

"I wouldn't be much of a man if your putting up an
intelligent, well-thought-out argument of your own beliefs
turned me off, even if they happened to conflict with mine."
He waited a beat. "And what makes you think my opinion on
that particular subject is my entire belief system?"

"My mistake," she conceded, tucking her papers to her chest,
hugging them to her almost protectively. "Most men wouldn't
be interested in a woman who could give as good as she got,"
she rephrased, apparently not the slightest bit embarrassed
to acknowledge her intelligence. The urge to flee, however,
was written all over her very attractive body.

Mulder decided he most definitely liked her mind; the
challenge she seemed to present. She had a natural
intelligence that sort of lingered behind her eyes. It gave
her an edge over every other woman walking. She had fire,
too. Enough of a spark to make you sit up and take notice,
but not so much that it put you off. Dr. Scully had the
ability to put you at ease or terrify the bejeezus out of
you, depending on who you were and what you meant to her. He
knew all this instinctively, almost as though some exchange
of inner information passed between them when they had
spoken earlier.

Leaning in closer, Mulder invaded her personal space, nearly
bumping noses with her. "I'm not most men," he assured her

Scully swallowed and he could tell he'd affected her. But
she didn't move back; didn't give any ground. "I can see
that," she murmured, her voice turning as soft as his. She
licked her upper lip quickly, shifting mental gears before
his very eyes. "Would you mind telling me what was so all
important that you couldn't let it ring until I was
finished?" He could tell she was dying to know.

Reaching out with a hand, Mulder tucked a lock of hair
behind her ear without conscious thought on his part. "I was
talking to my little sister," he murmured.

The eyebrow he was growing to love arched a little higher.
She stared at his hand pointedly as it moved back to his
side, but didn't say a word. "And it couldn't wait until
Sunday dinner?"

He gave her a smile, one of the full watt specials he
usually reserved for Samantha, or a patient that needed a
smile more than session. "We were discussing how irrefutably
exquisite you are," he told her quietly, using a tone far
more intimate than he should have.

She laughed nervously, bringing her papers up a little
higher; an obvious defense mechanism, his psychologist's
brain calculated quickly. "That's very sweet of you to say,"
she demurred.

"It's very honest of me to say," he countered. "Have dinner
with me," he implored again.

"I can't," she answered, slowly backing away.

"Why not?" he asked, not following her this time. He sensed,
somehow, that she =really= didn't want him to.

"Because my feet are permanently and unequivocally planted
right here on terra firma," she told him, only a hint of
sadness lingering in her voice.

"Da firma da better," Mulder quipped, keeping his eyes on
hers as she walked backwards.

She allowed him the sight of a brief grin. "Goodbye, Dr.

"Until we meet again, Dr. Scully!" he called back, almost
yelling because she'd gotten so far away.

He watched her walk away. Briefly, he toyed with the idea of
checking today's program in order to learn the delectable
doctor's first name. But that's not how he wanted to find
out. He wanted to hear it from her. He watched until she had
completely disappeared from view. Tamping down on the
thought that he'd let something infinitely precious to him
get away, he pulled out his cell phone, and hit number one
on his speed dial.

"Sammy's sex talk - where our motto is, if you say something
too depraved, we're not afraid to laugh at you."

"That you answer your phone like that gives credence to all
of Dad's concerns," Mulder muttered.

"I take it this means you didn't score with Ms. Drop Dead

Mulder sighed and plopped himself down on a bench. He undid
his tie and fixed his eyes to the exact spot Dr. Scully had
disappeared from a few moments before. "Not exactly," he
mumbled dejectedly.

"You sound really bummed out," Sam observed. "She must've
been =hot=."

Mulder grinned. "Let's just say if I find out she lives
anywhere near the area, I may finally give up my wandering
ways and take you up on that offer to relocate permanently
to Pasadena."

"You know I'd love to have you close," Samantha began
hesitantly, "but I'm afraid my offer to let you stay with me
for awhile is off the table, indefinitely."

"You're doing a take-back with your own brother?" Mulder
asked, aghast. "And to think, you used to be my favorite

"I'm your only sister," she reminded him, "and it's more
complicated than that. There's been a recent change in my
life since you've been abroad. A friend of mine is staying
with me for awhile. She's had some bad stuff happen to her -
stuff I'm not at liberty to discuss."

Mulder rolled his eyes. "I thought I was the ex-FBI agent,"
he noted wryly. "Besides, I don't need your house - I took
an apartment on a month's trial basis yesterday."

"Wow, your first stable apartment. I'm so proud. You're
still coming to dinner, right?" Sam clarified. "I want you
to meet my Chuck."

"I'm still coming. I'll see you tomorrow, all right?"

"Definitely. You'll get to meet Dana, and Chuck." Samantha
gave a little excited noise. "I can't wait for you to meet
them both. Chuck introduced me to Dana, you know. I think
she used to work for the FBI, too."

"Are you trying to fix me up?" Mulder asked, his tone

"Fox!" Samantha gasped, sounding outraged. "How dare you
even assume such a thing!" She cleared her throat. "Be sure
to bring Dana some flowers, she loves daffodils and white

Samantha disconnected before Mulder could get a word in
edge-wise. Sighing, he put his phone away and forced his
eyes away from the spot where they'd been focused. How the
hell did Sam expect him to concentrate on Dana, when all he
could think about was the enigmatic Dr. Scully?


"I'm home," Dana Scully called out as she tossed her
briefcase onto the worn leather chair beside the door.
Shrugging at the lack of response, Scully moved to the phone
and dialed a familiar number.

"The Goddesses Realm, Melissa speaking."

Scully smiled at the name of her sister's new-age bookshop
slash coffee bar.  "Hey, Missy, it's me."

"Dana! How'd your paper go over?" Melissa asked, the sound
of a cash register 'pinging' in Scully's ear.

"Fine," Scully answered, unwilling to discuss the feelings
she had that did =not= relate to the paper she presented
earlier, with Melissa. Her sister's advice would be for
Scully to head back and sit in the spot that she'd left him
in until Dr. Mulder returned. Then, she'd advise they 'go
where the wind blows you'.  "I'm actually calling because I
wanted to . . ."

"Check up," Melissa finished knowingly. "Dana, everything is
fine here. Stop worrying and enjoy yourself. There will be
plenty of time to worry next week."

Shutting her eyes, Scully nodded her head, knowing what
Melissa was saying was true. She just couldn't help but
worry, anyway. "All right." Scully sighed. "Just tell me one
more time that everything's fine," she almost pleaded.

"Everything is fine," Melissa assured her, chuckling. "Oh,
Dana, we just got a bunch of people in - I'll call you
tomorrow, okay?"

"O--" =click= "--kay."

Holding the phone away from her ear for a moment, Scully
shook her head, then set the cordless back into its cradle.
Peeling off her gray blazer, she walked into the back of the
house, looking for signs of life.  When she finally found
it, she wished she hadn't. "Jesus, guys, you have a
bedroom," she reminded Samantha and Charlie as they hastily
skittered apart, Samantha grabbing the blanket, Charlie
stuck with the throw pillow that was strewn about the floor
around them.

"Yeah, but you can't be as spontaneous in the bedroom. Can
you, Chuckie?" she asked Scully's brother, his face as red
as his sister's own hair.

"Uh . . . no?" he answered, his face hopeful. Scully tried -
unsuccessfully - to contain a laugh. He glared at her. "Just
cause you're my big sister doesn't mean I can't kick your
ass," he warned.

"Bring it on, Popeye," she threw back, folding her arms and
leaning against the wall. Even though he'd left the Navy,
she couldn't give up the nickname. "Sam, are you ever going
to grow up?" she asked tiredly.

"Dana, are you ever going to =loosen= up?" Samantha
countered, weaving the blanket around her body like a
sarong. She glanced at Charlie, then back to Scully. "C'mon,
let's go get something to eat. We were done anyway," she
added impishly. "It'll give Chuck a chance to . . . make
himself decent."

"That'll be awhile," Scully and Charlie muttered at the same
time, causing all three to laugh, as Samantha hooked her arm
in Scully's and the two women headed for the kitchen.

"So, how'd it go today?" Samantha asked as soon as they were
alone. "I swear, an entire room full of scientists and
researchers must've been so =boring=."

"Well, it wasn't =just= scientists and researchers," Scully
reminded her. Her eyes narrowed as she took in the 'boring'
comment. "And hey!" she added, smacking Samantha lightly on
the arm.

"What do you mean it wasn't just scientists and
researchers?" Sam asked, pulling out a giant bowl of
chocolate pudding.

"I mean," Scully began, grabbing the whipped cream in a can,
"that there were over three hundred doctors, from every
profession known to medicine there," she concluded. "That
was the point of this thing - to share ideas, to learn
something we didn't already know." Scully sighed. "I don't
want to go back tomorrow," she whined.

"Why not?" Sam asked casually, grabbing the whipped cream
and spraying it over the entire surface of the pudding. She
plopped two spoons in the middle and made a little 'ta-da'
motion to Scully.

Scully leaned a hip against the counter and weighed her
options. She didn't want to tell anyone about him, knowing
the immediate reaction would be to get Scully to take Dr.
Mulder up on his offer of dinner. However, Samantha had been
rather insistent about her brother Fox being 'perfect' for
Scully, so perhaps she wouldn't be as encouraging. Honestly,
Samantha Pierce could be the most stubborn person when she
wanted to be. Given Samantha's allegiance to the mere idea
of Scully and her brother, she decided it was safe to share
this with her.

"There was this guy," Scully began, taking a large amount of
whipped cream on her spoon.

Samantha's eyes actually lit up. "Guy? What guy?" she asked,
taking a huge bite of cream covered pudding.

"The most obnoxious, opinionated . . ." Scully smiled a
little as memory hit her. "Adorable, intelligent guy," she
finished, groaning as she took a bite of the whipped cream,
then quickly grabbed another, more like Sam's portion, and
downed it.

"Was he cute?" Samantha asked, forgoing the pudding for her
intensive questioning. "What's his name? How'd you meet

"His name is Dr. Mulder and I met him when he was carrying
on a very loud telephone conversation during my paper,"
Scully answered, ignoring the first question as more pudding
ended up in her mouth.

Scully didn't like the way Samantha's eyes started
twinkling. "You didn't answer my first question," she
pointed out.

Sighing, Scully tossed her spoon into the sink, frustrated
that even chocolate was not helping her state of mind. "Yes,
he's cute," she grumbled, putting her head in her hand.
"He's incredibly charming, too, in an annoying sort of way,"
she couldn't help adding, a fond smile crossing her lips. "I
just . . . I just like him, I guess," she admitted, a little
scared by that revelation. She just =met= him; she wasn't
allowed to =like= him yet.

"Dana, I'm failing to see the problem," Samantha announced,
giving Scully a pointed look.

Scully gave her the same look right back. "You know what the
problem is, Samantha," she reminded her, wishing she could
forget; knowing she couldn't afford to.

"You can't live like this forever. And if you intend to, you
might as well become a nun," Samantha stated, folding her
arms over her chest. "You've got to get back out there; and
this Mulder guy," and Scully =swore= Samantha was laughing
at her there, "sounds like he could be the one to lead you

"And what about this grand kismet plan you've had for Fox
and I since the moment you met me?" Scully countered,
staring down the young woman who'd become her closest friend
over the last few months.

Samantha waved a hand in the air. "Que sera, sera," she
proclaimed airily. "If you and Fox are meant to be, you'll
know it tomorrow night at dinner. And if not . . . maybe you
should give the good doctor a shot," she suggested gently.
"What is it going to cost you?"

"It could end up costing me more than I'm able to give."

"Why?" Samantha asked, something akin to amusement in her
tone. "Could you fall in love with this guy? Are those walls
you've built up in danger of being breached?"

"I don't know," Scully muttered, uncomfortable with the
entire discussion. Her friend was too close, saw through her
too easily. "It's a moot point, anyway. I don't plan on
falling in love anytime soon. I'm not ready for it. I doubt
I'll ever be ready."

Samantha laid a hand on Scully's arm, waiting to speak until
their gazes met. "I've got news for you, Doc. No one is
=ever= ready to fall in love. We just do. You just have to
go with it." Samantha's mouth quirked with humor "And hey,
if you can enjoy yourself with a cute doctor for awhile,
love or no, more the better."

Scully laughed, shaking her head slightly. "You make a good
argument," she conceded, sighing. "Okay, okay," she gave in,
pushing away from the counter. "I will give Mulder a shot
=if= I run into him tomorrow. And then, if we haven't
eloped," she added derisively, "I will give Fox a shot
tomorrow night at dinner. Happy?"

"Oh, Dana," Samantha murmured, walking past her, "you have
=no= idea" She trailed off with something akin to a maniacal

"What have I gotten myself into?" Scully muttered to no one
in particular.


Chapter 2 -Cloud Gazing for a Thousand, Alex

"Love must be learned, and learned again and again. There is
no end to it." - Katherine Ann Porter


Ever since Scully moved from New York, to Pasadena, she'd
been suffering from chronic lateness.

Is that a clinical term, Dr. Scully?

Smirking at the scientist that lived inside her head, Scully
rounded the corner of the auditorium, grabbing a seat in the
very back row. She shouldn't be doing this. Against all her
better instincts, when Scully had heard colleagues talking
about Dr. Mulder's lecture today at twelve thirty, she
hadn't been able to stop herself from high-tailing it over
here. Watching him gather his notes, a pair of incredibly
sexy glasses perched on the edge of his nose, Scully
admitted to herself that he went a few steps beyond 'cute':
Dr. Mulder was positively delectable.

"I'd like to thank you all for choosing my lecture over a
few of the other fascinating alternatives," he began,
sending the crowd a killer grin. "I for one will never quite
be able to live with missing The Appendix: Useless Organ or
the Body's Garbage Disposal," he quipped dryly, eliciting a
few giggles, mostly from the female population of the

Scully sank down in her seat a little further, feeling
absolutely foolish for attending. His harmless flirting
yesterday probably hadn't meant anything. He was
intelligent, funny and gorgeous; he could have any woman he
wanted. Why on earth would he want her? She'd been a
challenge - a temporary one at that - nothing more. It was
why he'd taken an interest and it was why he'd asked her to
dinner. He had probably forgotten her name by now.

Then why are you still here?

Forcing the traitorous voice into silence, Scully focused on
Mulder's words, even as the rational part of her being
advised her to get the hell out while she still could.

"I'd like to share with you a horrifying statistic," Mulder
began, bringing a piece of paper up before his eyes. He read
from it precisely. "Every six seconds in the United States,
a child is abused, either physically or sexually. Nine times
out of ten, that abuse occurs at the hand of a 'loved one'."

The words 'loved one' were spoken as derisively as Scully
had ever heard them and something inside her she refused to
examine in a public place clenched at his words.

Mulder put the paper down and braced both hands on either
side of the podium. "For those of you who don't know, I am a
child psychologist. I personally dealt with six cases of
domestic abuse last year alone. Three of those dealt with
sexual abuse; cases of fathers abusing daughters, uncles
abusing nephews."

He removed his glasses and brought his thumb and forefinger
to the bridge of his nose, seemingly to ward off a headache.
"I have worked in conjunction with various law enforcement
professionals over the last six years.  I do something most
in my profession refuse to do; I acknowledge that in order
to truly help a child, you have to stop the people who are
hurting them. Do they need us to serve the same capacity we
always have? Of course. But they don't get to us until
someone gets to them.

"It is my contention that psychologists should take a more
active role in their patient's lives. Detachment sounds good
in theory, but what our patients need, the children who come
to us, in particular, is someone to care about them. To love
them, because often, we're the only ones who will. This
would cause less of a caseload, which, to most people, means
a smaller bank account. As professionals we should become
involved in removing children from the situations they're
in. Unlike those old reruns of Hart to Hart we've all seen,
the police are not as adverse to civilian help as they are
portrayed. In particular, civilians with PhD's."

Scully swiped at unwanted tears, watching the psychiatrists
around her buzz with disagreement. They were mostly
therapists to rich women dissatisfied with the monotony in
their lives. It was a foreign concept to most of them,
living in their concealed little worlds; they possessed no
emotional attachment to their patients. No above and beyond
the call of duty. They took two fifty and hour and called it
a day. So few people really cared about their patients. It
was one of the main reasons Scully herself chose to study
facts and data, instead of working with live patients. She
couldn't remain detached. She knew that her first year in
med. school.

"My research shows," Mulder continued, snapping Scully's
attention back to him, "children who get to know their
future therapist while still in unsuitable conditions will
trust that therapist once they're removed from said
conditions. The bond of trust is formed with whomever
rescues them from their circumstance. Usually, that person
is a police officer investigating a neighbor's concerns, or
even, in some cases, a social worker will pay a visit at the
school's behest, a teacher having become concerned over a
certain child always having bruises he or she can't
adequately explain.

"The benefit of having several psychologists available to be
there, from the moment the abuse cycle is broke, would be
invaluable to the future mental health of too many children
who are very much in need."

 He swallowed, as though remembering something. The look on
his face tugged at Scully's heart. "Yet, in ninety-nine
percent of all cases, the officer responsible for ending a
child's suffering is never allowed near that child again. In
most cases, this is a mistake." He schooled his features, a
mask slipping into place, so cleanly, so effortlessly, that
had she not done the same thing herself a thousand times,
Scully would've missed it.

"I'll take questions now."

"I have a question." A woman from the front row spoke up,
rising from her seat. She was blonde, nearly six feet tall,
Scully wagered. "How can you stand up there and tell us the
way we've been doing things is the wrong way?"

"I'm not saying wrong," Mulder cautioned. "I'm just saying
that in some situations, there might be a better way. A way
we can be more beneficial to the children we profess to want
to help."

"How? By turning us into police officers with psychology
degrees?" she sneered, folding her arms over her chest.

His eyes narrowed and Scully could see the internal battle
waging inside him: to snap, or not to snap. Mulder smiled,
keeping his temper in check. "Every member of law
enforcement is now required to take a basic course in
psychology. Why shouldn't it work both ways?" he asked,
obviously having decided to go with not to snap.

Cute, intelligence, funny, and a gentleman too?

The blonde, however, didn't share Scully's admiration.
"Perhaps because our monthly salaries often equals more than
their yearly salaries?" she countered, glaring at Mulder.
"Honestly, Dr. Mulder, I am a psychologist. I did not become
one so I could do police work."

Scully took more offense at that, than anything else this
busty blonde had said so far. Mulder hadn't suggested
psychologists do police work. He had merely posed the idea
that they might be able to do more than they presently were.
Before she could decide whether or not to say something,
Mulder apparently had enough.

"And why did you become one?" He paused for a moment and
Scully watched him lose the war. "Because the couch went
with your dining room set?"


"How =dare= you--"

"How dare =you=," Mulder interrupted. "I became a child
psychologist because I saw one too many bad things. I have
found through both research and personal experience that the
best way to help a child is by getting my hands dirty, by
being there from the moment the cycle of abuse is broken,
and continuing with the child through the entire healing
process." His eyes burned with a passion Scully had rarely
seen. "Why, may I ask, do you have such an objection?"

The blonde was silent, seething. She raised an elegant chin,
generations of good breeding obvious in her countenance. "I
assume, Dr. Mulder, your attitude has something to do with
the death of Rachel Hayes?" she asked coolly.

Judging by Mulder's expression, her comment had made a
direct hit. He paled slightly and a pain that Scully had
only before seen reflected in the mirror filled his eyes. He
opened his mouth to speak, then closed it again, seemingly
unable to find the words. Knowing it was probably the
stupidest, most self-destructive thing she'd ever done,
Scully slowly rose from her place in the back row.

"I don't know who Rachel Hayes is," Scully began, her voice
barely audible to the entire room, "but I somehow doubt she
has a damn thing to do with this lecture."

Mulder's eyes moved to Scully's. Even though there was no
obvious change in his expression, Scully swore she saw
something spark in the hazel depths of his eyes.

Hazel depths? You can't even =see= his eyes from here!

"Oh? And who might you be?" the blonde asked, staring Scully

"Dr. Scully," Mulder answered for her. "Please continue with
what you were saying," he urged.

"What is your field?" Scully asked the blonde as she held
her hands behind her back tightly.

"I'm in abnormal psychology," she stated, looking confused
by the question.

"What do you do all day?" Scully probed further.

"I study the effects aging has on the brain," she blonde
explained slowly, totally baffled by the change in topic.

"Excuse me for saying so," Scully said carefully, not
sounding like she wanted to be excused in the least, "but if
what you do all day amounts to counseling elder people about
the declining state of their minds, what the hell do you
know about abused children?"

The room descended into total silence for a few tense
seconds. The blonde took her seat, apparently put in her
place. Stunned, Scully stood there in a state of disbelief.
Did I just do that? she thought to herself helplessly.

"Are there any other questions?" Mulder asked, once again
taking control of his lecture, ignoring Scully completely as
she gathered herself together.

Finally sitting again, Scully licked her lips and looked
down, startled to see her hands shaking slightly. She hadn't
been aware she still had that in her; that fire, the ability
to stand up for someone who needed someone on his side. She
looked up at Mulder, saw him fielding questions like a pro,
making a persuasive argument, even to the skeptics in the
crowd. It appeared there were no more out-right hecklers, at
least. Scully gripped her hands together tightly,
unwillingly to dig too deeply for a reason for her actions.
Her sudden show of bravado had been a long time coming, she

God knew she'd been too damn weak, for too damn long. It was
long past time to emerge from the trials of fire.

Her eyes were drawn again to Mulder, the way he held
himself, the sound of his voice, echoing off the walls of
the auditorium. He had a presence it was hard to ignore; a
charm that came through when he spoke. He was addressing a
roomful of people, yet made you feel like the center of
attention; as though you were the only one he was speaking
to. Scully liked that; liked him, far more than she was
willing to admit, even to herself.

Could you fall in love with this guy? Are those walls you've
built up in danger of being breached? Samantha's questions
floated through her mind.

All she knew was that he possessed some very attractive
qualities: delectable; charming; annoying; sexy as sin and

Definitely a lethal combination.


"Why did I love her? Because it was her. Because it was me."


"And that's my time," Mulder announced, glancing around the
assembled room. Dr. Alicia Summers had made her hasty
retreat shortly after the delectable Dr. Scully had snapped
her into place. Mulder couldn't help but grin as his eyes
sought out that bright red head. Alicia had some sort of axe
to grind ever since she and Mulder had broken up three
months earlier. It hadn't been his fault that she did
nothing for him, emotionally, intellectually or sexually.

Searching the room, Mulder barely located Scully. She
appeared to be trying to beat a hasty exit out the back
door. Smirking to himself, Mulder took the exit opposite the
stage and circled quickly, just in time to watch her emerge
from the back exit. Leaning against the wall to her right,
he waited for her to notice him. When his presence went
undetected, he decided to get her attention. "Thanks," he
said softly.

Scully froze her search through her briefcase, and Mulder
couldn't help but smile at how cute she looked when she'd
been caught trying to escape. She glanced up, brushing a
strand of what he'd begun to think of as unruly hair behind
her ear. "It was nothing," she mumbled, looking decidedly

Mulder didn't like the idea that he made her uncomfortable.
If he unnerved her, that'd be one thing. But uncomfortable
didn't sit well with him at all. "I disagree," he countered,
moving a little closer to her. "Though I could've handled it
myself, of course," he couldn't help adding. At her look, he
grinned. "However, handling it myself might've caused Alicia
to lose blood she'd rather not have lost. I have a little
bit of a temper when my ideals are belittled," he whispered,
as though speaking confidentially.

"Most people do," Scully conceded, looking reluctant to
admit she was having an actual conversation with him. Mulder
wasn't sure if it ticked him off, or amused him; a little of
both, if he was honest with himself. "I hated what she was
doing to you," Scully confessed, leaning against the wall to
face him. "You were saying something that was a fact, as far
as I'm concerned, and because she felt her way of life was
threatened, she decided to heckle you." Her brows drew
together as though she'd just heard something. "Alicia?"

Mulder winced. "Dr. Alicia Summers," he explained, using a
mockingly imperious voice. "We went out a few times," he
elaborated. "It wasn't a mutual parting."

"I'm assuming from that display, you did the leaving?" she
asked, shuffling a piece of paper from one side of her
canvas briefcase to another.

Mulder found the action mildly distracting, as he couldn't
seem to stop himself from watching her hands. Something
about the efficiency of their movement was a turn-on. A
mental gear broke in his head. The efficiency in the
movement of her hands was a turn-on? Jesus, how long had it
actually been since he'd last had sex? There was no way he
could really be =that= attracted to her.

He really wished he could sound more convincing in his own
head. Question . . . she asked a question, he reminded

"You assume correctly," Mulder affirmed, mentally shaking
his head. "It was about three months ago. I'd thought she'd
be over it by now. We only went out three times."

"Three dates?" Scully practically squawked. "Why did you
stop seeing her?"

He shrugged. "She wasn't my type," he explained.

Her eyebrows rose. "And what, exactly, is your type?" she
asked, folding her arms across her chest, the briefcase
hanging from the fingertips of one hand.

Giving her a gentle smile, Mulder leaned into her personal
space and flicked his fingertips against her forearm
lightly. "I'm beginning to think intellectual, petite
redheads are," he murmured softly.

To his surprise and utter delight, she laughed at that.
"You're incorrigible," she informed him.

"I take it as a compliment, Doc," he replied, leaning away
from her slightly.

"Doc?" she asked, that eyebrow climbing higher.

He shrugged. "You refuse to give me a first name," he
explained lightly, hoping to goad her into revealing it.

She grinned. "That's right, I do," she answered brightly.

Unable to contain a chuckle at her enthusiasm, Mulder also
folded his arms across his chest, adopting her posture. "I
must be a glutton for punishment," he began wryly, "but
would you like to have lunch with me?"

"That depends," she murmured, crossing her arms defensively.
"You going to take me someplace nice?"

"I'm willing to take you to the finest snack cart at this
entire convention," he boasted, a serious expression on his
face. "Order anything you like - hot dogs, hamburgers, fries
- sky's the limit with Doc Mulder." He grinned at her. "And
for the piece de resistance, we will dine atop the most
expensive blades of grass outside these hallowed halls." His
smile now was shy. "I don't see how you can refuse."

"Dr. Mulder, I'm beginning to wonder if I could refuse you
anything," she muttered, sounding surprised to be admitting

Mulder gave her a winning smile. "Be careful what you let
slip, Dr. Scully," he warned her playfully. "Anything you
say can and will be used to bring you the greatest amounts
of pleasure and enjoyment possible, should you choose to
accept it."

She shook herself slowly, laughing (actually =laughing=,
Mulder thought, with a touch of dismay and more than a
little attraction). "You are so . . ."

"Adorable?" he offered hopefully.

"Bizarre," she answered. "Weird; odd; take your pick."

"Given the choices, I'll take Things That Are Odd for six
hundred, Alex," he quipped, walking backwards, keeping his
eyes on her. "You coming, Scully?"

"I don't really think I have a choice anymore," he thought
she muttered. Her chin was tucked down to her chest, so he
couldn't be sure. But she did follow him, shaking her head
slowly as they made their way to the food cart.

"You ever played Jeopardy before?" Mulder asked a few
minutes later, while they waited for their chilidogs and
chili cheese fries.

"You mean other than playing along with the TV?" she asked.
"Dr. Mulder," she murmured, putting special emphasis on the
doctor part, "are you sure chili dogs =and= chili fries is a
wise choice? Isn't that akin to a heart attack on a bun?"

"No, I mean with another person, face to face," he answered.
"And they're chili =cheese= fries."

"Forgive my ignorance," she muttered. "How the hell do you
play Jeopardy face to face?"

"Similar to the way you play it with the TV," he replied,
handing her a Coke, straw already inserted. "For instance, I
say 'youthful indiscretions for two hundred: the time this
man was found in the middle of a parking lot with Donna
Bedford, wearing nothing but a tassel and a smile' would be
. . ."

There was a pause. "What is Dr. Mulder's high school
graduation?" she offered hesitantly.

"Judges, can we accept?" he asked people who weren't there.
He made a buzzing sound, followed by a contrite sympathetic
face. "Sorry; the correct answer was 'what is the
=aftermath= of Dr. Mulder's high school graduation?' Nice
try, Scully; you still have control of the board."

"All right," Scully murmured, picking up two enormous plates
of fries while Mulder balanced both hot dogs in one hand.
"I'd like most embarrassing moments for four hundred."

Mulder smiled slightly and they headed away from the hustle
and bustle of the conventioneers droning on and on about
their fields of choice. "Four hundred is an excellent choice
- right there in the middle. You don't get a lame story, nor
do you get something so embarrassing, that you're likely to
run screaming from the person you're speaking to."

"Doctor, I assure you, if I haven't run screaming from you
by now, you've got nothing to worry about," she murmured,
giving him a tiny Mona Lisa smile that made his heart beat
just a little bit faster than normal. "I repeat: most
embarrassing moments for four hundred."

He inclined his head. "And the answer is: 'She left him
standing in the lunchroom, surrounded by the entire school,
all of whom were laughing at him.'"

"Who is Dr. Mulder's first crush?" she asked, sounding

"Ooo, close," he conceded, finally locating the spot he'd
been looking for. He plopped down in the grass, totally
unconcerned with the stains his suit would suffer as a
result. After only a second's hesitation, Scully did the
same, crossing her ankles demurely in her long, navy blue
skirt. "However, the correct response was 'Who is the first
girl Mulder ever worked up his nerve to ask to the Junior
High dance?'"

"What happened?" Scully asked, warily picking up a
chili-cheese-covered fry. She nibbled delicately, her face
betraying her surprise at how good it tasted as she popped
the entire thing in her mouth.

"I was a gawky kid," Mulder began, taking a huge bite of his
hot dog.

Scully raised a skeptical eyebrow. "I find that difficult to
believe," she murmured, running her eyes up and down his
lanky body.

Mulder narrowed his eyes at her, swallowing. "We all look
different when we're young, Doc," he reminded her,
uncomfortable with her gaze. He'd never liked the way people
looked at him. When he was younger, it was because he was
almost gangly looking. He'd hated that they pitied him.

As he got older, he grew into his height and continued to
draw attention - only this attention was quite different
from the kind before. The new attention had usually been
from the opposite sex and had almost always been
distracting. He didn't want Scully to be like the others,
though. Mulder had never been the type to have a woman for
every night of the week, although he'd certainly had the
opportunity. He'd always valued his solitude. The quiet time
he could take to reflect on life, on everything and nothing.

The only problem with solitude was that it got awfully

"So we do," she murmured in acknowledgement. "Go on."

Taking another bite, Mulder chewed thoughtfully, trying to
find the proper wording. Finally, "I'd spent an entire year
trying to work up the courage to ask her out. Unfortunately,
naïve kid that I was, I chose the cafeteria, in full view of
the entire class, to ask her to go to the Junior High Prom
with me." He shook his head, sighing deeply. "I thought I'd
been teased before . . ."

"You weren't popular at all?" she asked, her expression
aching for him, and he decided right then that she either
had a shitty poker face, or she wasn't trying to hide behind
anything in front of him.

"I had friends," he allowed slowly. "Mostly, they were the
other quiet kids; we just sat around and read." He chuckled,
munching on a fry. "I got a lot more social once I hit high
school - being voted MVP on the school basketball team does
wonders for your popularity," he confided ruefully.

"You play basketball?" she queried, taking a healthy bite of
her hot dog; something in the way she didn't try to hide her
enjoyment of it endeared her further to him.

"Yeah," he answered, unable to stop himself from wiping a
dollop of chili away from her cheek with the pad of his
thumb. He stuck his thumb in his mouth. "I still play on the
weekends; whenever my schedule allows." Removing his thumb,
he pursed his lips. "Your turn, Scully: memorable moments
for six hundred."

She smiled ruefully. "I knew this would get around to me
eventually," she muttered, wiping her fingers on a napkin.
"All right; he left her tingling in August, yet somehow
couldn't differentiate her from the other fifty girls come

"Who is the guy Scully lost her virginity to?" he asked,
looking thoroughly amused.

"No!" she cried, smacking his arm lightly. "Who is the first
boy Scully ever kissed!" She laughed. "You think the first
guy I slept with would've forgotten so easily?" she
challenged, raising that eyebrow at him again.

He shook his head slowly. "No, Scully, I'm quite sure
everything about you is very . . . memorable," he murmured

"I met him over summer vacation," she elaborated, pointedly
ignoring his comment. "I was twelve and he was the first boy
who ever made my heart flutter."

"And how many boys have made Dr. Scully's heart flutter?" he
asked softly, leaning toward her as she bowed her head.

"There have been a few," she admitted softly, raising her
head to look him in the eye. "Although, I  admit, it's been

"I can't even remember a time when a woman made my heart
flutter," he realized.

"Not even the lunch room girl?" she asked, finishing off her

He pulled his lower lip between his teeth, considering the
question. "She didn't make my heart flutter," he pronounced
finally. "She was the first girl who ever really appealed to
me, but I think that had more to do with how tight her
sweaters always were, than anything else."

She joined him in a chuckle and he couldn't remember the
last time he'd heard a lovelier sound. As Scully began
nibbling on his fries, Mulder admitted to himself that he
could sit out here with her all day. He didn't think he'd
ever felt that way with a woman. He'd never wanted to stay
in her company indefinitely. Usually, while he might enjoy a
few hours with another person, he much preferred the company
of his books, his TV, his computer, or his sister. Scully,
on the other hand, he could spend a few lifetimes getting to

He settled for the rest of the afternoon. They sat on the
grass for awhile and talked about insubstantial things. He
told her a little about his family, being very general. He
explained that his little sister had been his best friend
since he hit puberty. She was always there to listen when
the rest of the world seemed so far away. It had been her
who had convinced him to try his hand at writing, and he'd
found he had a passion for it.

He told Scully about how he and his dad still went to go see
a ball game every month - ranging from baseball - to
football - to basketball, depending on the season. His
mother had died a few years ago, a heart attack, and that
revelation prompted Scully to tell him about her father,
whom she called Ahab, due to a mutual love of Moby Dick.
Mulder found it charming that she had been her father's
Starbuck until the day he died.

The bittersweet emotions that rolled off of her when she
told him about her father nearly broke Mulder's heart.
Scully was quickly endearing herself to every facet of his
being. She shared a few stories, about her brothers and how
much of a tom boy she was, always trying to tag along with
her father and 'his boys', while her sister stayed at home
with their mother.

She confided that she didn't see her family now as much as
she'd like; too busy, is all she'd said in explanation,
quickly diverting the conversation. Obviously she didn't
wish to talk about it. She did, however, let it slip that
something had changed in recent months; especially where her
relationship with her siblings was concerned.

What amazed Mulder the most was how much he had to
consciously stop himself from touching her. Just pushing her
hair back from her face so her eyes weren't obscured, or
brushing the backs of his knuckles against her cheek was
hard to resist. Holding her hand, Christ, just laying a hand
on her knee was tempting. The kind of stuff a high school
kid sweated over at the drive-in. Scully brought all that
out in him. For the second time in his life, he wanted to
re-visit a childhood he'd flung away in favor of moving on
to bigger and better things. He had been in such a hurry to
grow up, he hadn't taken into account that he might miss his
childhood once it was gone.

Rachel Hayes played an instrumental part in getting him to
realize that.

"That one looks like a horse."

Mulder turned his head to regard his new friend. He already
considered her a friend, he noted wryly, an internal grin
breaking out. When was the last time he had made a new

"Nah," he disagreed, leaning close enough that the strands
of their hair brushed together. "It's a unicorn," he

"Pot-a-to, pot-ah-to," she mumbled, sliding her arm into the
air, pointing at the cloud in question. "You see that little
piece of fluff there? It's the horse's mane, blowing in the

"Nope," he disagreed again, sliding his arm up, laying his
hand on top of hers, indicating with his own finger. "That's
its horn. All real unicorns have horns," he pronounced,
sounding like an expert.

"There are no such things as unicorns," she informed him,
sounding incredulous and amused at the same time.

"How do you know?" he countered, turning onto his side. He
propped his head up on his hand to look at her carefully.
"Have you ever seen one?"

"No, Mulder, and I think the fact that I =haven't= seen one
serves to prove my point." Her eyes narrowed on his watch,
then widened. "Is that the right time?"

His eyes were drawn to the face of his watch. "Yeah." His
own eyes widened. "Shit," he muttered.

She didn't hear him. She was already hastily grabbing the
blazer she'd discarded hours ago. "I have to go," she

"Me too," he concurred, causing her to give him a look he
was growing to love. "Believe it or not, even pushy would-be
suitors have other commitments," he informed her haughtily.

She almost grinned at that one. He could tell she was trying
damned hard to hold it in. "Thanks for lunch. It was . . ."
She paused and contained a laugh. "It was something," she

"Hey, Scully," he murmured, catching her hand with his own.
"The word you're going for there, is fun," he told her
gently, smiling into her eyes as the sun began to set.

"Is that what fun is?" she asked lightly, pulling her hand
away with something that looked like regret in her eyes.
"I'll have to remember that."

"Not to sound like some guy you met in a bar, but . . . can
I get your number?" He felt like he'd known her forever, yet
hadn't spent nearly enough time with her.

"Why don't you give me your number," she suggested instead.
"I'll call," she added, a bit too quickly.

The fact that she felt the need to add the 'I'll call'
alerted his radar. He gave her a look that related he didn't
necessarily believe her.

"I will," she promised, and he =almost= thought she meant it
as he handed over one of the cards he kept for special

"My cell number," he explained as she looked at the card.
"It's the only number I'm sure to answer." He paused.
"Scully?" he asked softly. She met his gaze warily, her hair
framed by the setting sun. She looks like an angel, he
thought distractedly. "Please call," he found himself
practically pleading. "I'd . . . I really had fun today," he
finally finished lamely, wishing he could say more, knowing
if he said what he really meant she'd run scared. Hell, she
was almost running scared =now=.

"I will," she promised as she backed away, her briefcase
held tightly in one hand. She gave a little wave as she
turned and left.

Mulder stood there and watched her walk away as he had done
the day before, silently praying that he could get through
dinner tonight, what with Sam foisting this Dana person off
on him.


Chapter 3- Siblings Boggle the Mind

"Will you still need me, when I'm 64?" - The Beatles


It was lightly raining when Scully finally arrived home. She
still couldn't quite believe that she'd allowed herself to
spend today the way she had. Blowing off the convention was
one thing; the way she'd behaved with the delectable Dr.
Mulder was quite another. She emptied her coat of the
receipts and cards she'd accumulated over the day, and hung
it in the closet. Amongst those bits of paper, she found
Mulder's card. She would call him, she decided with a sigh;
a promise was a promise. But it wouldn't lead to anything,
she repeated to herself. She wouldn't allow it to. Letting
him down easy would be the best thing for both of them.

Isn't that what you said about today, Dana?  the snarky
voice inside her head that insisted on being so damned
optimistic and antagonistic piped up.

Oh shut up, she thought. She didn't need this right now.
Dana Katherine Scully did =not= need a man in her life at
the moment. She would call Mulder and gently tell him she
wouldn't be able to see him again. If gentle didn't work,
she would firmly assure him it was for the best; that while
he was a wonderful man, she just couldn't be in a
relationship right now. It would be easy, infused with
irrefutable logic; a simple cutting of ties.

Now, if she could just convince herself she meant it, she'd
have something.

"Dana! You are so late!"

Wincing, Scully turned to see Samantha's expectant face. She
was wearing a little black dress that showed off more leg
than it did chest. Samantha had long believed her legs were
her best feature, and the dress complemented that belief
nicely. Scully stared down at her own legs for a minute and,
not for the first time, felt grossly inadequate as a woman.

This was why she preferred to remain professional; detached.
She didn't have to worry about things like what length skirt
looked best on her figure, or if she was an 'autumn' so long
as she stayed in her lab. She knew all the little beauty
secrets, she just didn't care. She hadn't cared in a long,
long time.

"I, uh, got held up," she mumbled lamely, shucking her suit
jacket and sending it to the sofa in the living room.

"Well, what are you waiting for?" Sam asked, sounding
totally impatient.

"Our brothers?" Scully supplied helpfully.

Sam rolled her eyes, emitting a sigh of frustration. "Dana."
They stared at one another for a moment. "Aren't you going
to change?" she asked finally.

Scully looked down at the suit she'd been wearing all day.
"It's just dinner with the family," she said innocently,
looking up into Samantha's annoyed expression.

"Dana," Sam threatened.

Scully held her hands up in surrender. "All right, all
right," she conceded finally. "I'll change." She turned on
her heel and headed upstairs.

"You'll thank me one day!" Sam called after her.

Once safe inside her bedroom, Scully let the mask of
self-preservation she wore on a daily basis drop. She strode
determinedly to her closet and threw open the doors. Rooting
through it, she finally located a pair of black dinner
slacks, the rayon ones she'd found on sale last year, and a
lovely ivory silk blouse. Stripping off her suit, Scully
fought off a wave of irritation. She didn't want to be
dressing for =any= man, =ever= again. However, since she was
apparently doing it anyway, she at least wished the man in
question was Mulder.

That thought gave her yet another reason to mentally
chastise herself. Realizing she was too tired to even berate
herself properly, Scully gave up. Screw it, she thought
sullenly. I'm allowed to have a little fun, aren't I? If Fox
is half the character his sister is, I'm sure to have a good

So what if she couldn't get a pair of challenging,
beguiling, captivating hazel eyes out of her mind?

Fully dressed, Scully took a moment to primp in front of the
mirror. She ran a brush through her hair and let it fall
loosely around her shoulders. Some rebellious part of her
urged her for the thousandth time to cut it. She steadfastly
refused to give that urge credence. She liked her hair long.
She had =always= liked her hair long and she wasn't going to
change it because of some symbolic rebirth crap Melissa was
trying to sell her on.

"Dana," Samantha's voice hissed through her door. "You
better be ready and girlfriend, I mean =ready=, because my
big brother is here, and speaking as his totally biased
sister, he looks good enough to eat!" She barged through the
door and shut it quietly behind her, focusing on Scully.

"Freud would have a field day with that statement," Scully
quipped, turning a full three-sixty to give Samantha a
glimpse of her hastily thrown together outfit.

"Nice," Sam complimented. "And I'd tell you to fuck Freud
with a stick, but he'd probably like that." Her eyes lit up.
"And don't think I'm kidding - Fox is exactly what you need.
My best advice to you, Dana, is to cover him in your
favorite sauce or syrup and lick him clean."

Scully's eyes widened. "Does he know you talk about him like
that?" she asked, only mildly aghast, given what she knew of
Samantha's personality.

Sam shrugged. "Sure," she said, as though it were obvious.
"Oh, you mean does it bother him?" She laughed. "It drives
him nuts; half the reason I do it," she assured Scully in an
off-handed manner. "However, it also gets him laid, which he
doesn't seem to actively seek out on his own. It's my job as
his sister to help him relieve some tension." She looked at
Scully pointedly. "Sometimes, despite what they taught you
in Catholic school, Dana, you really do need to relieve a
little tension."

"I'll get a massage," Scully muttered, heading out the door,
Samantha dogging her heels.

Male laughter drifted from the living room. Samantha smiled
happily. "Oh good - Fox obviously hasn't threatened to kill
Chuck yet."

Scully's eyebrow crept up her forehead. "Kill him?"

"Oh, he's fiercely protective," Sam told her. "But he knows
when to back off. He gets a vibe off the guys. Actually, if
Fox tells me he doesn't like a guy for legitimate reasons,
ten to one, I'll stop dating him." Sam shrugged. "He's a
good judge of character. One of the guys he told me 'creeped
him out' turned out to be a rapist."

"You said he used to work for the FBI?" Scully asked,
stalling at this point, more uncomfortable than she could
begin to express.

"Yep," Sam confirmed. "He was with the Bureau for three
years; got burned out by a bad case." She grimaced. "You
know what a chatterbox I am," she reminded Scully
unnecessarily. "But it really isn't my place to tell you
about it."

Scully nodded. "Of course not. I didn't mean to pry."

Samantha rolled her eyes. "You know, we really need to get
you a spine, Dana. You seem to have misplaced yours."
Shouldering her way into the kitchen, Sam grinned widely at
her brother, throwing herself into his arms. Sam was so
tall, she blocked Scully's view of her "date" for the
evening. She whispered something in Fox's ear, but Scully
only caught the end of it. "--and if I've got half your
intuition, do I have a surprise for you," she added,
stepping away.

Oh my God, the little voice echoed inside Scully's head.

Oh my God, she seconded it, her eyes widening like saucers.

Fox Mulder stood before her, clothed head to toe in black,
looking like something out of romance novel. She tried to
look away and found that she couldn't. He slowly walked
towards her, a light in his eyes she couldn't help but be
captivated by. "Dana Scully, I presume," he murmured,
placing extra emphasis on the 'Scully', turning it into a
verbal caress as he brought the hand that had been hanging
limply at her side to his lips.

Scully was so busy trying to process this newest development
that she missed Samantha's distinctly proud 'Yes!' motion in
the air, as well as her outstretched hand being deposited
with a twenty from Charlie's own pocket.


"It's been too long since somebody whispered - mmm, shut up
and kiss me."-Mary Chapin Carpenter


It was really amazing what one could project on the outside
while inside, one was screaming.

Stay cool, he instructed himself. Don't let the total,
all-consuming elation you feel at her being your blind date
show too much.

It might scare her.

God, this was too perfect. Things weren't supposed to be
this perfect in real life. The last two days were starting
to remind Mulder of a British Farce, something Phoebe had
dragged him to one night at Oxford on the few dates they'd
had.  Except he wasn't in the audience. He was living it,
and at the end of the night, the curtain wasn't going to go
up. He got to go on living it up.

The question remained, how did he get Dana Scully to realize
she wanted to live it up with him?

"Sam, give your paramour his money back," he instructed his

"Why? Tell me this isn't the hot chick up at the podium,"
she ordered.

"Something tells me Dr. Scully would object to being
referred to as a chick," he murmured, his eyes fastened on

"I don't know. It might be a fair trade off to being
considered hot," Scully said in reply, humor lurking in her
tone. Her face, though, remained slightly panicked.

However, the wide-eyed, deer-caught-in-the-headlights
expression was fading with increasing speed from her face.
He liked that she had fast recovery time. It inspired
confidence and made her even more desirable, if that was
possible. Mulder caught a look of maniacal glee in his
sister's eyes. He began making plans for retribution. His
little sister was either going to be hurt or thanked. He
hadn't made up his mind which yet.

"Dinner's ready," Samantha announced, insinuating herself
between Mulder and Scully. "I really think we're getting off
to a smashing start," she confided, sending her boy toy a
grin. Mulder grimaced. He knew he shouldn't refer to Chuck
as a 'boy toy', even in his mind. Not only would it piss
Samantha off, which he was pretty used to, but it would piss
Scully off as well. And Mulder didn't think their
relationship has progressed enough for her to be pissed off
at him.

"Dr. Mulder," Scully said smoothly, "why don't you escort
your little sister into the dining room? I'd like to have a
word with my baby brother." The lady's tone brokered no

"Nice try, Dr. Dana," Samantha cut in quickly, "but you
ain't getting Chuckie alone until the urge you have to slice
and dice someone passes."

"Pointing out to someone that they want to kill you usually
isn't the best way to ensure your further safety, Smart
Ass," Mulder whispered loudly to his sister.

"And you." Scully spun around to face her brother. "What
part did you play in this little charade, Charlie?"

Charlie held both his hands up in a gesture of surrender. "I
just placed my bets. You disappointed me, Sis. I lost twenty
bucks.  I was counting on you having sworn off men for good.
Now I find you've been gallivanting around some medical
conference with a guy you just met, you don't know the first
thing about--"

"Hey," Samantha interrupted. "That's my brother you're
talking about. He's safe." She rolled her eyes. "Way too
safe, if you ask me," she added.

"I heard that," Mulder said.

"I said it loud," Samantha returned.

"You know, I think you had unfair advantage with our bet,"
Charlie announced suddenly.

"Oh no," Scully cut in. "Don't start that again, Charlie.
You grew out of it when you were fifteen; it would be a
shame if you regressed."

Charlie sniffed the air delicately. "I don't have the
slightest idea what you mean."

"You do so," she insisted, planting her hands on hips.
"Every time it turned out I was right and you were wrong,
you found some way to weasel your way out of it. You cited
unfair advantage more times than I can count."

"Did not," Charlie denied.

"Did too."



"Woah." Mulder made a cutting motion in the air and focused
on Scully again. "Not to insinuate that I don't enjoy a
glimpse of this carefree, no holds barred side to you,
because I do. But," he qualified, "I don't think any of us
agreed to have dinner tonight to argue with our respective
siblings." He glanced Samantha's way. "Although killing her
isn't totally out of the question."

"Words hurt, Fox," Samantha enlightened him in the tone of
voice she'd mastered at the age of five.

"I didn't agree. I was coerced," Scully announced, her
posture changing in an instant. She definitely had the
carriage of a Fed.

"All right then. =I= came here tonight, because my sister
informed me there was a woman here I =had= to meet." He
quirked his lips at her. "She promised kismet."

"I don't believe in kismet," Scully challenged, but Mulder
didn't think she quite believed herself. And was he
imagining that sparkle in her eyes?

"I didn't used to," he admitted. "But when faced with
undeniable proof, I find it hard to keep refuting certain
truths to myself."

"Undeniable?" A single eyebrow arched. Mulder grinned.

"Aren't they =cute=?" Samantha gushed, threading her arm
through Charlie's.

The rest of dinner went much the same way. They bickered and
laughed, ate and talked. Samantha, in a feat Mulder felt
proud of, managed to save both she and Charlie's hides.
Scully - Dana - had been more perturbed, he thought, than he
had. After all, this sort of thing was right up Samantha's
alley. He was used to it after thirty-four years.

Not that her boyfriend was a saint, by any means, and for
the first time, Mulder had the thought that his sister
finally found someone well suited to her. Through the course
of dinner, Samantha told them she'd taken to calling him
Chuckie after they viewed the Child's Play movies together.
Scully had nearly snorted white wine out her nose. A
demurely murmured 'appropriate' had been her only comment.

Through tacit agreement, all four stayed away from the topic
of how Mulder and Scully met. Instead, their conversation
steered toward childhood. They learned that one summer their
families had vacationed in the same coastal town at the same
time, and for all they knew, they might've even spent time
at the same beach. Currently, Charlie and Samantha had only
been dating for about seven months, but according to Sam,
they'd known each other for years.

"We met in college," Charlie had confirmed. "We took a few
of the same courses and became fast friends. I was engaged
at the time, so nothing came of it." He had grinned
rakishly. "When I turned in my commission and Jenny left me,
Sam was the only one who'd speak to me."

"I know what that's like," Scully had muttered under her

Mulder had sensed an undercurrent between brother and
sister, but when he'd looked to Sam for confirmation, there
had been a definite 'leave it alone' warning in her eyes. So
he had, and the conversation moved on.

In fact, things were just starting to become truly relaxed
when the power went out.

"Goddamn circuit breaker," Samantha exclaimed. "It does this
every time it rains."

Scully blinked and looked out the window. What do you know,
it was raining. She'd been so busy staring at Mulder that
she hadn't even noticed. Not good, Dana, she chastised
herself. Total ignorance of your surroundings is the first
stop on the road to ruin.

"I'll go fix it," Scully announced suddenly, standing up.
Anything to get away from those penetrating hazel eyes . . .

"Fine, but take Fox with you. I don't want you fumbling
around in the dark, falling, and breaking your neck down

"Sure," Mulder answered before Scully could think up a good
reason to refuse. It =was= dark down there and it wasn't
completely implausible that she'd trip over the mountains of
junk Sam had stored away.

And so, Scully found herself walking alongside the man who'd
occupied nearly all her thoughts from the moment that she'd
laid eyes on him.

"So." He didn't look at her as they headed toward the

"So," she agreed, having no clue what else to say.

"Small world," he tried, sounding as nervous as she felt.

"Very," she agreed again, looking at him as a flash of
lightening illuminated his features. God, you're beautiful,
she thought.

"What?" he asked, sounding as though he could =not= have
heard her right.

Oh God, oh God, oh God, oh God. "Found a flashlight," she
mumbled, forcing her voice not to reflect the horror she
felt at having said that out loud. She pulled open a kitchen
drawer and extricated the flashlight.


"Damn," she swore.

"Don't suppose you've got extra batteries in that drawer,"
he said with resignation.

"I guess we're going down blind," she replied.

"Just to be on the safe side . . ." He trailed off and
enfolded her hand in his. "Wouldn't want to lose you down
there," he whispered into her ear.

Scully suppressed a shiver of pleasure and forged ahead
through the basement doorway. They took the steps carefully,
free hands feeling along the railing until they reached the
bottom. She kept close to the wall until she felt the
circuit box beneath her fingers. Pulling it open, she jumped
backwards when it emitted sparks and shocks.

She lost her balance slightly and felt herself begin to
fall. Luckily, or unluckily, depending on your perspective,
Mulder caught her around the waist before she could hit the
ground. Her back was to his front and his arm was slung low
along her hip, holding her securely to him. His breath
puffed against her temple and all of a sudden, it was
nothing but dark and hot in the basement.

"I'd say electricity was a lost cause." His mouth was right
next to her ear and she refused to acknowledge how much she
enjoyed the way his whisper felt in her ear.

"Maybe not," she put in feebly, silenced once more when a
violent surge of electricity sizzled along the box.

"Scully, there's no way in hell I'm letting you touch that
box, and if I'm not letting you do it, I'm certainly not
stupid enough to do it," he said definitively.

She pulled away from him sharply, facing the eyes she
couldn't see in the dark. "Let me?" she challenged in an icy
calm voice. She admitted, at least to herself, that he
didn't deserve it. He was only looking out for her welfare,
and it =would= be stupid to touch that box at the moment.
Past experience, however, made her extremely sensitive to
being controlled.

"I didn't mean it like that," he stated for the record.

"That's what they all say," she muttered darkly.

"No, that's what I say," he insisted. "I didn't mean to
infer I could tell you what to do, Scully. I just don't want
to see you get hurt."

For the first time, she was grateful for the dark. The
sentiment behind his words was so sincere, tears were
springing to her eyes and, try as she might, she couldn't
seem to blink them back. She should have been more cynical,
less eager to believe he meant what he said. But it had been
so long since she'd felt able to trust someone; so long
since she'd wanted to this badly.

Lightning flashed again, and a burst of thunder followed
barely a second behind it. Scully's heart clenched in fear,
past becoming present as the last thunderstorm she was
caught in came back in startling clarity. The window to
Scully's left shattered and she lost her balance. Again, she
found herself falling into Mulder and, had she the ability
to care, she would have been annoyed at how often she seemed
to need him tonight.

Rain symbolized pain to Scully. It had ever since that
night, ten months ago, when she'd finally decided to take
her life into her own hands. It shouldn't have taken that
long, she yelled at herself. She shouldn't have waited until
she was at the end of her rope. She should have been
stronger, for so many reasons . . .

"You're crying."

That's right. She was crying. Not from pain this time, but
because she was here, with this man, so different from the
one who had come before him, and he'd made her cry because
of that very difference. He sounded amazed, frightened even,
that she was crying. She didn't want him to be frightened.

Before she could stop herself, Scully tilted her head up and
pressed her lips to his. And oh, God, did it feel good. He
hesitated only a second before he started to kiss her back.
His thumbs wiped the tears off her cheeks and his palms
settled along her jaw line. She opened her mouth beneath his
and he pulled on her lower lip gently with his teeth. An
involuntary moan left her mouth and she felt his lips widen
into a smile.

Her arms were between their bodies, her hands lying against
his chest, and she clutched two fistfuls of his t-shirt to
pull him closer. She tentatively probed his lips with her
tongue, and this time, his was the involuntary moan.
Lightning flashed again and thunder sounded through the now
broken window. Rain through the open window splattered
against Scully's neck and face. It served the effect of a
dozen cold showers and she broke their kiss, averting her
face to the side.

His hands dropped from her cheeks to rest on her hips and
his breathing was as labored as hers. She pulled away
emotionally first. It was easier that way.

"I'm sorry," she mumbled quietly.

"Don't be," he almost begged.

She smiled sadly, even though he couldn't see it. "I'm
afraid I have to be," was all she could get out. She pushed
away from him and blindly made her way to the stairs, then
up and into the kitchen.

Once there, she took a series of deep breaths to calm the
panicked fluttering of her heart. Composed at last, she
carefully made her way back into the living room where
Samantha and Charlie were waiting.


It just was not fair for a woman to be that beautiful, that
smart, that sexy, and yet that totally unaware of what she
did to a man.

Whoever it was that hurt her before, Mulder would gladly pay
good money to get the guy alone in a dark alley.

He hadn't been sure, before, why Scully was so gun shy. He'd
suspected, of course, that it had something to do with love
gone wrong. He had not, however, realized the depth to which
the experience had affected her. Contrary to popular
opinion, women did not change emotions at the drop of a hat
the way Scully had just a few minutes before. Her reaction
to the storm puzzled him, almost as much as the kiss she'd
laid on him surprised him.

Whatever secrets were locked inside Scully's head, Mulder
was determined to let them out. He wanted to earn her trust,
gain her confidence, and hopefully convince her to give
whatever it was between them a chance to flourish. And, most
disturbingly of all, he wanted to take care of her, even
though he got the distinct impression she'd bristle at the
notion. But she needed to be taken care of. Hell, he needed
someone to take care of him. It was a trade off and she was
the first person he'd ever met in his entire life he wanted
to try it out with.

Unfortunately, she seemed to want to spend all their time
together alternately flirting with abandon, and running like
a rabbit. He didn't know what it would take to convince her
he might just be worth her while; but he knew he was going
to spend every moment trying. She wasn't the only one with a
few demons. Maybe his demons could meet up with her demons
and they could fight it out while he took her ice-skating.

The thought amused him, probably more than it should have,
as he headed up the stairs.

"Dana, just tell him." Samantha's voice had always carried,
but Mulder found it unnaturally loud as he approached the
living room.

"Sam." God, he had it bad. She sounded cute when she whined.

"Leave Dana alone," Charlie insisted.

"Thank you." Scully sounded relieved, and mildly surprised,
to have someone on her side.

"It's not her fault she's a coward," he added.

Wiping the smirk off his face, Mulder carefully pushed the
kitchen door open and found a lot more light around the room
than there had been when he left. Apparently, Samantha had
found the candles he sent to her from Italy. They gave the
room a hazy glow, and he made mental note of how beautiful
Scully looked surrounded by light. Ten years younger and not
so much like the weight of the world rested squarely on her

"Well, I assume Dana," it was harder than it should have
been to use her given name, "told you electricity was a lost
cause for the night."

"Yep," Samantha confirmed. "We're having an argument -
should we play Risk, or Stratego?"

"Monopoly," Charlie interjected.

"We are =not= playing Monopoly," Samantha said with
exasperation. It gave Mulder the impression that she and
Charlie already had that conversation.

"What about Boggle," Scully suggested.

Three sets of eyes turned her way. "Boggle?" they all
exclaimed with total disbelief.

"Excuse me," she muttered, turning her eyes away.

Mulder pulled his lower lip between his teeth as Sam and
Charlie continued the argument amongst themselves. All his
attention was focused on Scully. She tried so hard to act
normal; to act as though nothing was wrong. It seemed as
though whatever was bothering her had already been confided
in their respective siblings. It was good to know that, at
least, his own sister was rooting for him.

Trying to be as unobtrusive as possible, Mulder made his way
to Scully's side and, leaving an inch or so between them,
sat next to her on the floor. There was tension radiating
from her. She did not want him to bring up what there was
between them. And because she wouldn't allow him to give her
anything else, he gave her time.

Leaning his head closer to hers, he forced a carefree tone
into his voice. "Boggle?"

Her lips quirked, and as she turned to answer him, he knew
it would be all right, at least for now. They would talk.
Really talk, about all the pounds of luggage they both
dragged behind them. But it would wait.

He would give her all the time she needed.


Chapter 4 - Tales From the Sleep Deprived

"Too much honesty did never man harm." -John Clarke


As it turned out, Samantha forbade anyone from leaving the
house until the storm broke. The storm never did break, and
so they all found themselves eating cereal the next morning,
using up the last of the milk before it spoiled.

Like any good slumber party, those who attended hadn't slept
a wink. They spent the night playing party games, including
Boggle, as well as a marathon, cut-throat Monopoly
tournament that eventually came down to Mulder and Samantha.
Each owned half the board, Samantha having cleaned out
Charlie a couple of hours before, and Mulder having
eliminated Scully when she landed on Boardwalk with a hotel
a few minutes before the end.

 Scully, they all learned, was not a gracious loser, and she
began throwing small green houses at Mulder when he took her
last dollar. Mulder, in an uncharacteristic moment, admitted
he finally approved of one of Samantha's boy toys. He told
her quietly, hoping for a moment of sisterly affection, and
instead got Samantha's version of gloating. He didn't blame
her, though; the Scullys certainly did have a way about

"Why is your last name Pierce?"

The question was sudden in the comfortable silence that had
descended over the kitchen table that morning. All eyes
turned to Scully, who was looking pointedly at Samantha.

"I got married out of high school in an act of utter
stupidity that was, at the time, disguised as rebellion." A
wry smile pulled at her lips. "I kept his name so I would
never be tempted to forget the dumbest thing I've ever

Mulder made a grunting sound, but otherwise stayed silent.
Samantha stuck her tongue out at him and Scully heaved a
sigh. "Marriage," she muttered, "is not all it's cracked up
to be."

"Some marriages aren't," Mulder injected before he could
stop himself. Off Scully's look he elaborated: "It all
depends on the people involved."

A non-committal grunt from the girl with the granola and
yogurt was all he got in response. He was torn between
relief and disappointment that she didn't bother to engage
him in a debate on the subject.

"So," Samantha dragged the word out to break the silence,
"now that the storm's over, what is everyone doing today?"

Mulder sighed. "I should go home and change. This is the
last day of that damned conference and it would be in poor
form to miss it."

"I'm not going," Scully announced.

Turning toward her in amusement, Mulder pushed his own bowl
of cereal back from the table and folded both arms over one
another. "Playing hooky, Dana?"

He thought he detected a quirk of annoyance at his use of
her first name. "I don't call it hooky when I decide not to
attend a conference that wasn't mandatory to begin with,
Fox." She drew his name out in the most taunting, arousing

She was trying to piss him off, and it was turning him on.
So much was twisted in that line of thought, he opted not to
waste his time analyzing it.

"Well, if you're not going, that means my number one reason
for dragging my exhausted ass out there is gone." He waggled
his eyebrows at her. "Wanna take a nap?"

The effort she expended trying not to smile was admirable.
"Actually, I would. I haven't stayed up all night since Med.

"A nap sounds great, actually," Samantha announced. She
stood, dragging Charlie up behind her. One of her arms slid
around Mulder's neck and she hugged his head to her for a
moment. "No driving home until you've got at least four
hours under your belt, my big brother." She pecked his
temple affectionately and disappeared with her charge in

"Poor Charlie," Mulder chuckled. Scully raised an eyebrow,
encouraging him to elaborate. He gestured with his hands.
"He looks half asleep already and she's going to keep him
from sacking out completely for at least another hour."

He could tell she was trying hard not to blush; almost as
hard as she'd been trying not to smile. "Your relationship
with your sister is very . . . open."

"Open is a kind word," he allowed, grinning. His heart did a
strange flip-flop when she grinned back. "We were close
growing up. As close as you can get when you drive each
other crazy. We communicated almost entirely through letters
and week long visits when I went away to college." He heaved
a sigh, his smile disappearing as he brought a hand up to
pinch the bridge of his nose. "It scared the hell out of me
when she called two weeks after she graduated high school.
I'd flown in for it, met her new boyfriend, heard how
completely in love she was, gotten what a 'hoodlum' he was
from dad."

"I think that's a universal term all fathers share," Scully

He nodded. "Except this time, dad was right." He could still
hear the tears in his baby sister's voice. "They were
married for exactly eight days. She was too ashamed to call
mom or dad, so she called me. I flew from Oxford to a small
town in Minnesota in the dead of winter. Her so-called
husband got drunk with his friends, picked up some women in
a bar, and he left his 'bride' to fend for herself."

"My God," Scully exclaimed. "How old was she?"

"Turned eighteen the day before she got married."

"I can't believe that . . . she's so . . ." Her mouth worked
silently as she searched for a word. "Full of joy," she
finally settled on. "When I look at her, I feel guilty for
not feeling alive enough."

Mulder smiled. "I know. It amazes me she's capable of that.
I think sometimes I don't quite live up to her good example,
but I do my best. She helps. After that night, being brother
and sister sort of took a backseat to what we've become now
- the best of friends. She has been my best friend for years

"Over the last few months, she's become mine, too," Scully
admitted quietly. "I've also been getting to know my little
brother and sister again. I understand what you mean.
Sometimes, I can almost feel the relationship shifting away
from siblings, to friends. I never imagined how satisfying
it would feel to turn family into friends."

"In my experience, blending friendship and family is the
most satisfying relationship you can build. It's why
marriages that are rooted in friendship last longest . . ."
He trailed off as he got a look at her face. "Did I say
something wrong?"

She shook her head, and Mulder got the distinct impression
she was shaking something else entirely off.  "I'm married,"
she announced suddenly.

Everything around Mulder seemed to slow, then stop
altogether. They had been having a nice, quiet, 'getting to
know you' conversation, and all of a sudden, she drops THAT
out of the sky?

"What?" he asked, sure he couldn't have heard her right.

"I'm married," she said again, more clearly. As if realizing
what she'd just said, she quickly stood and fled the

Amazingly, the only thought flitting around Mulder's brain
was that he would somehow break her of the habit she had of
running away from him just when things were getting


Stupid, stupid, stupid, she muttered to herself the entire
way up to her room.

Not only had she sickened herself by running away from a
confrontation again, but also she'd just given Mulder one
more piece of her life. And it wasn't even a complete piece.
It was a fragmented piece, one he'd surely never be
satisfied with. In effect, she had just ensured that as soon
as he'd digested what she said, she would be grilled to
within an inch of her life until he had all her secrets.

Well, that just wasn't going to happen. She didn't care how
sexy he was. Safely tucked in her room, she shut the door
firmly and leaned back against it, her eyes closing slowly.
If only his appeal were relegated to the surface. It would
be so easy to stay safe and separate from him. But he was
like his sister; relentless and endearing. Scully hadn't
wanted Samantha for a friend. She had wanted to say
cloistered in her own little world, with the
responsibilities she'd taken upon herself.

No friends; no romantic entanglements; nothing but what
she'd accepted would be her life. But her damned brother had
to introduce her to his 'soul mate.' After the way his
marriage had ended, Scully had scoffed at his use of the
term. However, after she met Samantha, she was forced to eat
her words. When, after having only known each other a few
weeks, Sam offered her home to Scully for  "as long as you
like," while she got her head together, the bond between the
two women was cemented: Samantha was like another sister.

The night she shared that observation with her, was the
night Sam first started in on Fox. It was perfect, in her
mind, for her brother to marry the woman she already
considered to be a sister. Scully had indulged her for
months. What did it matter, after all, if Sam had this
fantasy? It wasn't like she and Fox were really going to
fall madly in love at first sight.

Until, that is, she saw him at that conference. Without even
knowing who he was, she'd still been drawn to him for some
reason. And normally, if someone had so rudely interrupted
her presentation the way he had, she would have handed him
his balls. But no, not Mulder. When he did something like
that, he somehow made it seem endearing and quirky. She'd
actually gotten a charge out of arguing with him. It made
her blood course hotter through her veins to engage his mind
like that.

But she wasn't in love with him. Oh no. She could not be in
love with =anyone=. It just wasn't in the cards for her. And
she was =fine= with that. She hadn't even been =thinking=
about it until she met him. Damn him to hell, anyway.


Oh, fuck me, she thought acidly, then amended her thought:
that was the last thing she needed.

"Go away," she whined, sure that he wouldn't.

"Dana, please, I just want to talk to you for a minute. You
at least owe me a minute after that."

Damned reasonable argument.

"On one condition," she called through the door.

"Name it," he agreed easily.

She opened the door a crack and looked at him. "You have to
stop calling me Dana just because you think it's what you're
supposed to do. I can see you cringe when you say it."

"I won't call you Dana, if you won't call me Fox," he

Pouting slightly, she opened the door fully. "But I like
calling you Fox," she protested. "I got so used to hearing
about 'Fox' from Samantha, it's kind of novel to call you

"It feels like you're talking about someone else when you
call me Fox." He shook his head, looking exasperated with
himself. "What the hell is it about you that makes me feel
like a new man?"

He was =not= allowed to say things like that. It was part of
the rules she'd arbitrarily made up in her mind. He wasn't
allowed to be as wonderful as he was. He wasn't allowed to
be as patient and funny as he was. And he sure as hell
wasn't allowed to feel about her the same way that she was
feeling about him. Like she'd become a new woman the moment
she met him.

Except this new woman still had the history of the old one.

And he needed to understand that. Once he did, he wouldn't
want anything to do with her.

Was that the real reason she'd been dreading telling him?

"Fox," she began quietly, using that name to refute what
he'd confessed, "there are some things you should know
before you start declaring things like that."

"Scully, I can promise you, nothing you could possibly
reveal to me would change the way I feel about you."

Her eyes slammed shut and she held up two hands. "Just . . .
don't. Don't say that until you hear me out."

She wouldn't tell him everything, but she'd tell him just
enough to scare him off.

Secure in the knowledge of her motivations, she refused to
lend any credence to the tiny part of her that prayed for
his understanding.


"If you have love in your life, you can make up for a great
many things you lack. If you don't have it, no matter what
else is there, it's not enough."


"Sammy, baby, I'm =tired=."

Oh that just wasn't fair. That pout she gave him sometimes
that could cut him off at the knees and make him do anything
she wanted. There wasn't a facial expression in his entire
arsenal that could do that to her. At least, not one she'd
admit to.

"You can sleep later," she practically purred. She sat up on
her knees beside him on the bed and shrugged until her
partly unbuttoned blouse slipped off one shoulder.

It hadn't always been like this. He could remember a time
when a small patch of her skin didn't affect him in the
least. Of course, that had been before he'd kissed her;
before he'd felt what it was like to fall asleep in her arms
and know that he'd always have a port of call to come home

Charlie met Samantha in college. She was bright, bubbly, and
extremely wounded. He never met her brother, but she spoke
of him often and in glowing detail. Over the course of four
years, they became the best of friends. She dated his best
friend and he dated everything in a skirt. They shared
confidences, copied off each other's homework and took turns
daring each other to pull off the stupidest pranks in

"You kept me up all night last night, and the night before,"
he reminded her as his hand rose of its own volition. His
fingers sifted through her long, dark hair the same way they
did graduation day when they'd said goodbye.

Judging by the look on her face, she was remembering that
day the same way. "But last night our siblings were
present," she whispered huskily as she bent to nibble at his

He couldn't contain a chuckle. "I'm almost surprised that
stopped you," he commented wryly, slipping a hand beneath
her shirt. They both knew he was going to give in. Fighting
it would only delay both gratification and sleep. Just
because she was horny didn't mean she needed sleep any less
than he did. Samantha was just more . . . goal oriented.

"I swear, you Scullys. I've never met a more repressed gene
pool," she mumbled as her lips formed a Hoover-worthy
suction around the side of his neck.

Charlie frowned slightly. That had been something his ex had
always accused him of. Being far too repressed. "You're the
least spontaneous person I've ever met," was one of her
favorite refrains. Toward the end of their marriage, he had
often screamed back at her that she was the last person to
infer anyone else possessed a lack of spontaneity.

He and Jenny had never exactly caused each other's blood to
boil. But he'd loved her, as much as he'd been capable. He
was so young when he joined the navy and married the pretty
girl he met during leave. They'd been drunk, and neither one
willing to give up on their first marriage. In retrospect,
he wished they'd given up the very morning they woke up next
to each other. They both would have been spared a lot of
pain with a quick annulment.

Instead, it took five years, an infidelity, hers, and a
total unwillingness to forgive, his, to bring them to the
brink of divorce. The day he'd finally made the decision was
the day he'd run into Samantha again. It had been a chance
meeting. Browsing books at Barnes & Noble, they'd bumped
into each other in the science fiction section. She was
picking up Fox's first novel and she persuaded him to buy it
too. They exchanged numbers, made a vague promise to get in
touch and have lunch soon, and parted.

As he drove home to Jenny, something occurred to him: he'd
felt more alive during that five minute conversation with
Samantha than he had in the entire five years he'd spent in
his marriage. And it wasn't Samantha herself that did it,
really. It was the fact that he remembered what it was like
to have a real, human connection with a woman. And he missed
it. And it made him sadder than he could express that he
didn't have it with his wife.

"You're wearing your serious face," Sam fretted above him.
He focused and found her face hovering above his. She was
straddling him now, a worried smile on her face. "You know I
don't like the serious face unless it's focused on me."

"I was thinking about the day we ran into each other again."
He brought his hands up and buried them in her hair. He
loved her hair. The way it smelled, the way it felt pressed
up against his chest when she slept.

"I will not tolerate you feeling guilty about your marriage
again," she informed him primly. Amazing how she could pull
off being prim while half-naked, straddling an equally
half-naked man's chest.

"I'm not. Not really," he amended when she looked ready to
argue. "I just wonder sometimes . . . what if you and I had
gotten married right out of college?"

"I wanted to kiss you that day," she confessed softly. "That
day you said goodbye to me. But you were off to be Navy boy
and I knew whatever love you felt for me couldn't stop you
from following in your father's footsteps. At least not
then," she whispered with a sly grin.

"You aren't going to sit there and tell me you knew we'd end
up together."

"Not 'end up together,' as you say," she chided, pressing
her lips over his heart. "But I knew we'd meet again. You
don't become what we were to each other and then just . . .
never meet again." She chuckled. "Although I will admit,
when you didn't call me for months after we bumped into each
other, I started to doubt myself."

"Never doubt what you mean to me," he whispered as he pulled
her mouth to his for a kiss.

He and Jenny filed for divorce the following morning. He
spent the next few months using sick leave and setting
himself up in an apartment. Just as he was getting his life
into something approaching normal, he found Samantha's
number crumpled up in his wallet. Before he could think
about it too much, he had called her and asked her out to

Somehow, lunch turned into lunch and a movie, and after the
movie there was a walk, and after the walk they were hungry
again and ate dinner. After dinner there were drinks back at
her house, and after the drinks there was a game of strip
poker like they used to play in college.

And once there was nudity involved, there was no way he was
leaving her house.

Once they'd dropped the pretense that he =wasn't= living
with her, she helped him move out of the apartment he'd
never really liked anyway. During dinner one night, when he
was dreading leaving her to go back to sea, she asked him
why he joined the navy. That question so perplexed him that
he'd stayed up all night on the couch. He stared at the TV
without really watching it, and eventually, she'd gone to
bed without him.

The next morning, she'd found him in the same position. He'd
looked up at her and shrugged. "Because my father did.
Because Bill did. Because it was expected."

She'd smiled at him then and pressed her lips to his
forehead. "Silly man," she'd whispered, her voice nothing
but kind.

And so she'd taught him how to play the stock market. She
was very good at it, and made an obscene amount of money
sitting in front of her computer a few hours a day. "Just
until you find out what you really want to do," she'd told
him. And it was good. They sat in an office together,
working separately, and he thought a lot about what it is
he'd =really= like to do with his life.

He also thought about other things; like how lucky he was to
have Samantha in his life. And how he was going to sock Dana
if she called him "Popeye" again.

And recently, after meeting Fox, about how he was going to
get his big sister to loosen up.

"You were right," he mentioned as Samantha shrugged out of
her blouse. His eyes focused on her breasts and his train of
thought flew out of his head.

"I was? When?" She jiggled a little and he pinched her
bottom. A giggle left her mouth. "What's the matter,
Chuckie? Easily distracted? You'd think they'd have taught
you more discipline than that in the navy." She started
humming "In the Navy," by the Village People under her
breath and he groaned.

"You know I hate that," he growled. "And if you continue, I
won't tell you what you were right about."

Immediately, she was quiet. She appeared impish and
impossibly beautiful the way she was looking at him. He ran
his hands over her sides, simply because he needed to touch
her. It wasn't fair, that they'd lost all that time they
could have been together. While he would never call the
years they'd been friends a waste, he definitely wished
they'd pushed the envelope further back then.

"Fox is perfect for Dana," he admitted grudgingly.

"I hate to say 'I told you so,' but--"

"No you don't," he cut her off, laughing. "You love being
right and you love being able to gloat about how right you
were." He sat up and brought their upper bodies close
together as he kissed her once, soundly. "And I adore that
about you." He sighed and rested his forehead against hers.
"I'm afraid, however, that Dana is going to put up walls the
likes of which you've never seen."

"Excuse me, I'm the one who knocked down her 'no one's ever
getting close again' walls to begin with," she reminded him
in a huffy tone. "Trust me. My big brother is not only a
trained psychologist, but one hell of a student of human
nature. If anyone can get through, it'll be him. Besides,"
and she was smirking now, "I think he's already in love with

Charlie's eyes widened. "It's only been a few days!"

"I have never seen him look at someone the way he looks at
her when she isn't looking," Samantha proclaimed. "He isn't
interested in sex for sex's sake." She rolled her eyes and
he chuckled. That sentiment was something the woman he loved
would =never= be able to fathom. "Ever since he hit high
school, he's been searching for a soul mate. And when he
couldn't find her, he just sort of . . .resigned himself to
waiting, even if he never found her."

"He seems to be warming to the idea of ending his wait,"
Charlie commented wryly.

She leaned in closer to him, if that was even possible. "Can
I tell you a secret, Chuckie?"

"Of course," he answered without thinking. Oh, shit, he
thought to himself immediately afterward. He's going to have
to abide by that and this is something about Dana or Fox
that the other one is going to need to know.

"I think she is his soul mate," she confided in the softest
voice imaginable.

"You may be right," Charlie began hesitantly, all ready to
refute her in some way.

Then: "Dana."

They both froze. "Is that--"

"Shhh!" Samantha placed her hand over his mouth.

"Go away," they heard Dana whine.

Charlie snickered and spoke behind Sam's hand. "That's my
girl; petulance always keeps 'em coming around for more."

"I will gag you," Samantha threatened.

He leered. "Ooo, really?"

"Later, if you're good," she muttered, reaching her hand
back to stroke the erection they'd both almost forgotten

That shut him up.

"Dana, please, I just want to talk to you for a minute. You
at least owe me a minute after that."

"After what?" Samantha wondered aloud.

"I don't know and I don't care," Charlie muttered, reaching
to his right and flipping on the CD player.

"Hey," Sam protested, obviously having forgotten about sex
in favor of eavesdropping on her brother.

Holding her against him tightly, Charlie flipped their
positions until his full weight rested atop her. "I think I
just got my second wind," he confided as he nuzzled her neck

Her answer was a bit breathless. "Then why the hell are your
pants still on?"


Chapter 5- Love Shack, Baby, Love Shack (my apologies for
the title, to Mulder at least.)

"Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has
many; not on your past misfortune, of which all men have
some." - Charles Dickens


"Are you still listening to me?"

Mulder started slightly, glancing guiltily at Scully. "Do
you hear that?" He cocked his head to the side.

She mimicked his movement. "Hear what?"

"It sounds like . . . 'Love Shack?'"

A grimace crossed her face. "That's Charlie, he's . . . um .
. . being intimate." She sighed. "It's a homemade
compilation CD - 'the best of love,' he calls it."

"My baby sister is getting it on to the B-52's?" He was

"Could you let this go and focus?" Ooo, he detected
exasperation. But . . .

"I can't. I can still hear it. It eats at my brain."

Rolling her eyes, Scully strode to his side and shut the
door firmly behind him. "There. No more neural

He could still hear it, but decided to let the matter drop.
It wasn't nearly as loud, and the fact that she'd shut them
inside her bedroom was making him light headed. Besides, he
got the distinct impression she was about to lay something
=very= heavy on him. He didn't need her frustrated with his
intense dislike of certain pop artists, to boot.

Her voice was almost brisk when she began. "About ten years
ago, I met my husband. He was handsome, intelligent and
kind. We had an affair while I was going through the
Academy. It ended, but we remained friends. About three
years later, I was given my first field assignment: I was
one of the agents staking out a bank we'd gotten a tip was
going to be robbed. We went in, caught the bad guys, but in
the process, Jack was shot. He was dead for nearly two
minutes. But he came back."

Her voice cracked slightly. There was a wealth of pain in
her tone, and in her eyes. It cut him to the core to see her
look so lost. It was obvious she had loved this man at one
time. He felt an irrational pang of jealousy. Of course
she'd loved him; they'd been married. If his brain were
operating properly, he would have realized she had to have
loved him the moment she said she was married.

"I was . . . dissatisfied with my career in the Bureau.
However, I was totally unwilling to admit it, to my family
or to myself. It caused a lot of pain when I gave up a
career in medicine to be an FBI agent. My father didn't
speak to me for months, my mother had a disapproving but
ultimately loving look on her face whenever I saw her, and
my two brothers branded me as good as a traitor - they were
navy boys, the least I could do is be a doctor. Melissa, my
sister, was the only one who didn't persecute me, but at
that point, she'd also distanced herself from the bosom of
the family."

"By choice?"

She nodded. "Melissa has always been different. She lives
life by her own rules."

They were silent for a moment. Then: "You said you were
married. Present tense."

Again, she nodded. "I am," she confirmed in a voice he
suspected was steady only through great leaps of strength
and control on her part.

"I owe you an apology, then, for what happened last night."
Her eyes widened at him. "For kissing you," he elaborated.

She almost looked amused. "Your reticence is endearing, but
I kissed you."

He shrugged. "I still kissed you back. And I knew something
was wrong with you. I've never kissed a married woman
before, and whether I knew it or not, I'm sorry."

"Apology accepted and appreciated, but I still maintain the
blame lies squarely at my feet."

"No, really, it's all my fault." She looked ready to protest
again. He forestalled her. "I'm irresistible," he confided,
offering her an out. It was okay, he longed to soothe
gently. You don't have to apologize for anything with me;
what you feel, what you think, who you are, what your past
is. See how ridiculous it sounds when you try? Every piece
of you is all right with me.

He said nothing, of course. She wasn't ready to hear it,
anymore than he was ready to say it out loud. At least not
until she finished her little confession.

"Anyway," she continued, "he was relentless this time
around. He wanted me to marry him. He was so different from
the man I knew before. As though he had a new lease on life.
Which, to be honest, I could understand, under the
circumstances. I confided in him that I was thinking of
leaving the Bureau, and he made me an irresistible offer. We
would get married. He would support me while I went back to
school. I wanted to research cancer, help to find a cure.
I'd seen some very ugly things at Quantico, and I wanted to
make a difference early on."

"Is that what you do now?" He couldn't stop himself from
asking. He was fascinated with her and, even though he knew
she wanted distance, all he wanted was to soak up as much of
her as he possibly could.

It frightened him a little, to tell the truth. He'd never
felt this before. Not with any of the women he'd dated,
slept with, lived with or come close to committing to for
life. He'd only known her a few days, and already, he felt
like she was imprinting her identity on his heart. And the
damnedest part of it was, she didn't even mean to. She
didn't even =want= to. Judging by the
deer-caught-in-headlights look that she seemed to wear half
the time, he was willing to bet she was feeling the same way
and was equally - if not surpassingly - scared by it.

At least, that's what he was telling himself. And, until she
proved him conclusively wrong, he was going with it.

"Yes," she answered, and he'd almost forgotten his question.
"I think my work has been the only good thing I've had for a
long time." A cross between a smile and a grimace crossed
her face. "Or, at least, it was before the Mulders came into
my life."

Oh, that one cost her a lot. His admiration for her
increased a few more notches. At the rate that kept
happening, he'd be worshipping at her feet in a few days. "I
think I can say with certainty that we're very happy to be
here," he murmured quietly.

His words prompted a teary eyed smile from her. He watched
her visibly push down her reaction and regain control.
"Things were fine while I went back to school. Or, at least,
I thought they were. I was extremely focused on my career,
but so was he. I'll admit things weren't ideal, but I never
. . . it never occurred to me things were as bad as they
were." Her tongue darted out to lick her lower lip nervously
and he refused to allow his imagination to place the
movement in a different context.

"Ten months ago, I came home from work and found a woman
sitting in my living room. She told me she'd been having an
affair with Jack since before we were married. Then she
introduced me to her daughter; their daughter." She ran a
shaky hand through her hair. "I've never felt so stupid in
my entire life. I wanted to believe in him. I wanted to be
sure he'd never do anything like that to me. But somewhere
along the way, I realized that I had lost faith in him." The
muscles in her throat convulsed and constricted as she
swallowed. "He didn't deny it."

Mulder got the distinct impression she wasn't telling him
something. She kept averting her gaze from his and she was

"And so you left," he concluded.

"I left," she confirmed in a voice that was barely there.
"But not before he gave me one last going away present."

"What?" he questioned when she made no move to continue.
"Scully, what?"

"He killed her. The woman he'd been having an affair with.
He killed her and then he came to me and said he'd done it
for us. Now we could raise Kelly together." Tears gathered
in her eyes. "I can't have children," she whispered
hoarsely. "I became sterile during my research a few years
ago. I found out barely a month after Jack and I were
married. In some twisted way, he thought he was doing
something I wanted. I . . . managed to get away from him."
She was back to hiding her eyes from him. "I called the
police and they arrested him. He's in jail now, contesting
the divorce I so desperately want, and I'm raising a six
year old little girl who isn't even mine."

"You kept her?" Damn, his voice was trembling. He was in
utter awe of this woman; her courage and her compassion were
indescribable. People like her were the reason he'd wanted a
career in law enforcement in the first place and,
ironically, the very reason he'd quit.

"I found her," she explained in the most pained whisper he'd
ever heard. Her eyes finally met his. "She was there when
her father killed her mother. I think . . . I think she
witnessed it, although I've never been able to get her to
talk about it." Her mouth worked a few times as she searched
for words. "I'm all she has. And in a strange way, she was
all I'd had then, too. She was a very good reason to open my
eyes again, to keep putting one foot in front of the other."

"I'm a little surprised the state gave you custody," he
commented. God knows that hadn't been his experience with
the system. Give a child to someone who would love him or
her, and ultimately be the best place for them? Perish the
thought. My sarcasm and disillusionment runneth over, he
thought bitterly.

"Actually . . . Jack gave me custody. And as his wife, they
didn't contest it. I think they were just glad to be rid of
the whole situation." She took a calming, steadying breath.
"Right now, Kelly's staying with Melissa. It's been a week
and I already miss her like crazy, even though I have to
agree with both our sisters' assessments - I needed the

"You know you don't have to feel guilty for that," he
couldn't help adding. "Everyone needs some time to
themselves, to remember how to breathe every now and then."

"I know." She didn't sound like she did, though. She did,
however, sound like she desperately wanted to believe.  "So
. . . I guess you can go now." A thin smile spread across
her face. "Try not to leave a cartoon cutout by actually
running =through= the door in your haste to escape."

"I have a new goal," he proclaimed, amazed at her capacity
to underestimate him.

"What?" He'd never heard someone that wary.

"To seriously elevate your faith in me." Very slowly, so she
could deflect him easily if she chose, he stretched his hand
out and pressed his palm to her jaw. His thumb stroked along
her cheek lightly and he offered her the gentlest smile he
was capable of.

"Who am I to warrant God sending you into my life?"

He barely heard her. White noise was filtering through his
head from the look in her eyes. His throat was tight and his
heart was beating far too fast to be normal. She was crying
without shedding a tear and it was amazing to watch.
Moisture gathered all around her eyes, but not a single drop
spilled over. His thumb traced a feather-light trail across
her bottom lip as he leaned even closer to her.

When did they get so close? He barely remembered sitting
next to her on the bed. But here they were, leaning toward
each other at a rapidly increasing pace. He brushed his lips
to hers and he felt her trying to hold herself back. He also
felt the moment she gave in. With only a hint of
trepidation, she leaned into him and the kiss. All the
while, he continued to stroke her cheek gently with his
thumb, her jaw cupped securely in his palm.

Their lips slid slowly and sweetly over each other, teasing,
learning, loving. While it was certainly the most intimate
kiss that he'd ever experienced, it retained a certain level
of innocence. He couldn't even classify it as sexual, though
he wanted her desperately. It was as familiar and
comfortable, as it was new and exciting. Her palm brushed
his cheek a few seconds before she gently pulled her mouth
away from his. He chased her lips for a half second before
realizing she wanted to speak.

A shy smile tugged at her lips as an almost teasing glint
appeared behind her eyes. "You knew I was married that

Her voice was husky, an alto caress he had to ignore to
focus on her words. When he did, a slow smile spread across
his face. "I don't care," he told her, surprised to find it
was true. Legally, she might be someone's wife, but she
certainly wasn't emotionally. That bastard rotting in jail
didn't deserve her. "But if you do, you should tell me now."

She seemed to consider him for a moment. With agonizing
slowness, she leaned toward him until their foreheads rested
against each other lightly. "Part of me cares," she
confessed softly. "The guilty Catholic part, I think. But
it's not enough to make me stop whatever this is. I can't .
. . I can't promise you anything yet. I don't even know if I
ever will . . . I don't even know what I'm saying, I'm

He cut off her rambling apologies with a quick, hard kiss.
He took a moment to remember what it was he wanted to say.
"No apologies. I won't ask you for anything that you're
unable to give. I give you my word."

"Sleep with me." Her voice was a plea, raw need coloring it.
Her eyes widened, as though she just realized what she said.
"I mean . . . I don't mean . . .I just want to =sleep=--"

He couldn't stop laughing as he pressed a kiss to her
temple. "Get under the covers, Scully," he whispered
quietly. "I feel like I could sleep for fifty years."

"I think I'll join you, Mr. Van Winkle. But I'd like to
change first. I don't relish the idea of sleeping in my good

A grimace passed over his face. "I don't relish the idea of
sleeping in my jeans, but I don't exactly have a plethora of

"You could borrow something of Charlie's," she offered.

Again, he grimaced. "Open relationship or not, there is
nothing short of nuclear war that could get me to interrupt
whatever's going on in that bedroom."

Scully chewed on her bottom lip for a moment. Head bowed,
hair obscuring her face from him, she looked like a child.
"If you give me your t-shirt," she mumbled, "I won't take
offense if you shuck your jeans."

Anyone but Scully, and he would be suspicious. He'd wonder
if she were playing games with him, trying to use sex as a
weapon. But Scully was guileless. He could tell on an
instinctual level. Not to mention the fact that his sister
would never attempt to set him up with a manipulator. Some
distant part of him wondered if he'd ever figure out how he
seemed to know her so well, so soon.

Mulder peeled his shirt off over his head and handed it to
Scully. He then turned his back to her while she changed.
Taking the opportunity to lose his jeans, he almost groaned
at the relief his spine felt when he finally slipped beneath
cool sheets, clad only in a pair of gray cotton boxers. He
turned toward her again, observing her with his head propped
up on one arm. She was staring at him and the bed with more
than a little apprehension. Briefly, he registered that her
knees were cute.

He pulled the covers on her side of the bed back, silently
encouraging her to lie down. When she made no move forward,
he began to feel doubts assail him. "Scully, if you're not
ready for this, I can go downstairs and sleep on Sam's

"No," she answered quickly. Only the complete lack of fear
in her voice convinced him she meant it. "It's just been . .
. a very long time since I've slept next to a man." She took
what he was now coming to think of as a trademark breath -
quick, fortifying, and infused with strength and control.

The next thing he knew, she had shut the curtains tightly,
flipped the bedside light out, bathing them in darkness, and
slipped into bed beside him. They weren't touching, and
their breathing was unnaturally loud in the small room.

"Good curtains," he commented nervously.

He felt her nod. "Very helpful when I've been up all night
working on something and need to sleep in the morning."

"I bet," he replied lamely.

Silence descended upon the room again. He could barely even
hear their breathing. My God, he realized, they were both
relegating their breaths so when he went in, she went in. As
though they were loathe to disturb the others presence with
the sound of breathing. An offense surely punishable by
death, he mused, not without a hint of amusement.

Something pulled at his mind, kept him from sleep. He wasn't
sure what, though he certainly didn't think it was Scully's
rest, or lack there of. It was . . . damn, it was a song he
could barely hear coming from Charlie's love tape. He
couldn't get the words clearly, but he =knew= that song . .

"Just an old fashioned love song . . . coming down in three
part harmony . . . just an old fashioned love song . . . one
they wrote for you and me . . ." Scully's voice, supplying
his mind with what it couldn't process. She had a soothing
voice. Horribly off key, but comforting, to him, at least.

Quietly, he began singing with her. She faltered for a
moment, as though she hadn't been aware she'd been singing
out loud. But it was only a moment, and they both continued
to sing softly, not even approaching the proper key, but
delighting themselves, nonetheless.

He must have drifted off before the song was over, because
he had the strangest dream where he was a bullfrog, and
Scully was helping him drink wine. And they were stranded in
the middle of nowhere, her voice comforting him then, though
it was no more melodic than it was now.

That was the last time he stayed up for twenty-four hours


Chapter 6 -Ruminations of a Life in Progress

"We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can
only fly embracing each other." -Luciano De Crescenzo


He was so beautiful when he slept.

The urge to touch him was nearly overwhelming. Only the
knowledge that it would wake him, thereby interrupting her
silent study of his features, prevented her fingers from
fluttering over his forehead, or sifting through his hair.
When she looked at him, she thought of something her mother
would say.

"He's a good man, Dana," was what she'd always said when
Ahab stayed away longer than he was supposed to. When her
husband seemed to love his sea more than his family, and her
youngest daughter wanted to know why Daddy didn't love them
enough to be home, Maggie would always answer that he was a
good man.

For years, Scully didn't know what that meant. Viewing it
through a child's eyes, she of course knew her mother could
tell her no lies. And her father was a hero, someone beyond
reproach. To actually voice the concern she felt had taken a
Herculean effort. Her mother's only answer had comforted her
then. Her daddy was a good man. Of course he was, that
explained everything.

It was only as she got older that she began to question the
validity of that hypothesis. At her father's funeral, an old
family friend approached her, offered her a kind smile and a
few words: "He was a good man, Dana." Yes, of course he was.
But what was it, exactly, that made that true? What
separated her father from the absentee fathers she saw in
this world every day?

His heart, for one, was pure. The love of his career nearly
equaled the love he felt for his family. And though it
seemed he chose the sea over them every time he left, she
knew, deep down in her heart, that wasn't the case. Their
understanding enabled him to have both his loves. His
heart's true purpose pursued, he lived a sailor's life for
months out of the year, and came home whenever he could to
be an almost ideal husband and father.

They read "Moby Dick," she believed, in what was his effort
to combine these two loves: His little girl, and his sea.
She had been Starbuck to his Ahab, but in name only. Little
Dana had never been welcome or allowed on his adventures.
That had hurt, viewed through the eyes of a child. She
hadn't understood things like Naval protocol. All she saw
was her father saying one thing, then doing another.

But he had been a good man.

Since his passing, she hadn't met another like him. Her
father's loss, coming so soon before Jack re-entered her
life, served to push her closer to him. She desperately
needed to re-capture that relationship and, in her grief
over Ahab's death, she didn't accept that trying to find
that sort of love in a husband or life partner wasn't
remotely plausible. She would never be able to replace her
father, she had realized less than a year into her marriage.
Trying would only bring with it more pain.

And hindsight was twenty-twenty.

This was another good man, she thought again, finally giving
in to the need to touch. The very tips of her fingers traced
the furrows in Mulder's forehead. His eyes were moving
rapidly behind his eyelids and she worried he was having a
nightmare. Leaning her head down toward his, she pressed her
lips against his scratchy cheek.

"It's okay." She breathed the words against his skin.
"You're safe. Everything's okay."

Slowly, his breathing evened and she watched him slip into a
peaceful sleep once again. This had happened earlier. Only
before, he'd whimpered a word: "Rachel." Scully suspected
that meant Rachel Hayes. She didn't know who that was, but
she planned to find out. If he was going to drag all her
secrets out, she would damn well be doing the same to him.

She still couldn't believe how much she'd told him earlier.
Not everything, of course. She didn't =want= to tell him
everything. Everything meant he had her trust, and she
wasn't ready to give that yet. Not her complete trust, at
any rate. But he did inspire trust, even from a woman who
could never trust again. How she wished that didn't describe
her, that she was more than something broken, never trusting
anyone enough to let them heal her.

Already, his face was so dear to her. Just looking at him
made her smile, she realized, her face unaccustomed to the
feeling of smiling, just because she could. Earlier, they'd
fallen asleep within seconds of each other. For the first
eight-hour block in months, she'd slept without dreaming.
What had finally woken her, was Mulder. His head had been
resting a few inches above her breast and she'd been holding
his body to hers in sleep.

Frozen in place, she hadn't moved until he had, a few
minutes later. He rolled to his back and since then, she'd
been lying like this, propped on her elbow, just staring at
him. His understanding and easy acceptance of her stole her
breath away. Most men, upon learning the woman they'd been
harmlessly flirting with had not only a husband behind bars,
but a small child to raise, that wasn't even hers, wouldn't
have stayed around long enough to pronounce the "buh" sound
in bye.

But not Mulder. No, Mulder didn't even hesitate. The thought
of saying "bye" never even occurred to him, she didn't
think. He was her friend now, no matter what else they might
be or become to each other. And Fox Mulder was there for his
friends. Even when he obviously wanted more than friendship,
he was still willing to curl up in bed with her and do
nothing more than sleep . . .

Tears pricking the backs of her eyes, she leaned forward and
brushed her nose against his cheek. Her hand flattened over
his bare chest, and she felt his life beat beneath her palm.
Her eyes fluttered shut and she felt moisture gather on her
lashes, even though the tears still wouldn't come. "You are
such a good man," she whispered into his ear.

"You aren't so bad yourself."

His sleep-roughened voice, like liquid gravel, startled her.
Her eyes opened quickly and she found a sleepy hazel pair
staring back at her.
One of his arms was stretched out above their heads, and she
felt his fingers brush over the very top of her hair.

"You weren't supposed to hear that." Was that her voice? Low
and intimate, familiar, like they'd been waking up next to
each other for years.

"Why not?" For some reason, they were both paying their
respect to the silence. Their voices were hushed, barely
loud enough to be heard.

Without giving her body permission to do so, she moved in
closer to him. So we can hear each other better, she
explained to herself rationally. It was a very practical,
reasonable thing to do. So what if she slid her feet until
they touched his under the covers? Hers were cold and his,
by some magic, were blessedly warm. His feet met hers under
the blanket, and she could have sworn he was cradling hers
between both of his.

Were they playing footsie under the covers? It didn't feel
like it. It felt more . . . the only word that came to mind
was, once again, intimate. How was it everything they did
together felt so comfortable and intimate? She wasn't
supposed to feel like this, ever, ever again. But really,
marriage or not, had she ever felt like this? She didn't
think so. He was just a man, she tried to tell herself. Just
a man . . .

Why were her thoughts so jumbled?

"Because when you hear me say things like that, it
encourages you."

"And you don't want to encourage me?" A teasing smile curved
his lips and his fingers sunk further into her hair. "What
if I promise not to get my hopes up? Would you consider
saying more things like that out loud?"

Lips quirking in reluctant amusement, Scully moved her hand
an inch, so it now rested on his stomach, just above the
covers. It was an innocent touch, she assured them both
silently. "I don't think your ego could handle any
additional . . . stroking."

Did I just say that?

She could tell Mulder was wondering the same thing. The
slightly startled, but infinitely pleased look in his eyes
gave him away. "I could say something right now," he began,
then slowly let the words fade away. They both smiled at
each other again.

"Go ahead," she dared. "Say it."

He shook his head. "No, it's bad. It's a bad line, it's . .
. bad." His smile turned sheepish.

"If you won't tell me . . ." Courage, Dana, courage. "Show
me." The words were breathed against his face.

Mulder had turned on his side, causing her hand to slide
from his stomach, to his lower back, her arm resting over
him. One of his hands was still nestled in her hair; the
other rested over her hip, unnaturally hot, even through the
blanket and her borrowed t-shirt. Closer still, her stomach
brushed just below his mid-section, and she felt something
hard prodding her . . .

An eyebrow crept up her forehead slowly, her expression
purposely neutral. She really started to enjoy herself at
his obvious embarrassment. Why was he embarrassed? They were
sleeping in the same bed. From what Samantha had told her,
he didn't get laid on a regular basis. It was only natural
he would have a significant physical reaction to their
proximity . . .

She thanked any and every God that existed for keeping her
from vocalizing that last thought out loud. Neither of them
needed her scientifically analyzing his current state of
obvious arousal.

"Morning erection," he mumbled somewhere around the area of
her temple.

That was =definitely= embarrassment she heard in his voice;
embarrassment, and more than a little trepidation. He was
concerned for her, she realized. His concern touched her
beyond words. He didn't want to make her uncomfortable,
didn't want her to feel obligated in any way. Amazing what
she could read from him, with nothing more than the
inflection he used in his voice.

"It's not morning," she reminded him quietly, indicating the
clock behind them that clearly read 8:19 in the evening.

He turned back toward her from the clock and gave her
another in a series of sheepish grins. "Come on, Scully,
work with me here," he chided gently.

"All right," she agreed easily, snuggling up to him beneath
the covers.

Her body pressed against his, she felt his erection almost
surge toward her. She looked up at his face, only to watch
his eyes close as he bit his bottom lip. So very beautiful,
she thought again, pressing her fingers to his mouth,
removing his lower lip from between his teeth. His eyes
opened at her touch and she stared into what she was now
officially giving herself permission to refer to as hazel

"This isn't exactly what I had in mind," he gritted out,
searching her eyes. Asking for permission?

"It's not? I'm sorry. Is this better?" As she spoke, her
hand drifted down his stomach, beneath the covers, to cup
his cock through the cotton of his boxers.

"Scully." He was warning her now, she thought, amused
despite the seriousness of the situation. He was right to be
apprehensive; right to be worried about her, in light of all
she'd revealed to him before they slept.

But she didn't want to be warned. She didn't want to feel
the way she had these last months; hopeless, depressed,
unworthy of love or the happy life all children are led to
believe awaits them at the end of adolescence. She didn't
want to be the person she'd been since she learned the depth
of Jack's depravity. She didn't want to think about Kelly,
or the constant attention the sweet, troubled little girl
demanded from her.

Mostly, she didn't want to think about how hard it would be
to trust Mulder the way she was beginning to want to.
Hard-learned defense mechanisms were firmly in place,
despite the desire she had to remove them. He knew that. It
was why the chivalrous side in him was coming out. What he
didn't know was how badly she needed this. The words, she
needed the words to tell him . . .

"I need to forget," she whispered, pressing her lips to his.
She wasn't really kissing him; their lips just happened to
be touching while she spoke. "Just for a little while, I
don't want to remember who I am or why it's impossible for
us to be together."

"I don't believe that it is impossible." His breath made her
feel alive. The way his fingertips made soothing circles on
her scalp, in time with the patterns his other hand was
tracing on her lower back, were distracting her from what
she needed to say.

"Then make me believe it, too," she implored. Her voice
stopped just this side of begging. "It will be the hardest
thing you've ever done, if you succeed, but I promise, I'll
do my best to be worth the effort."

It was as close as she could come to optimism, at least for
the time being. However, she had to admit, part of her was
already beginning to believe. His eyes held a promise no
words could come close to expressing. She wanted to trust
that promise, wanted to hold it close and let it warm her
soul when it was chilled to the bone.

Before she could decide what she was reading in his gaze,
she found her mouth crushed against his. So this is what it
feels like to be kissed by a man with passion, she thought
for a moment, before all thought simply ceased. There was
only feeling as her hands slid over his bare back, her arms
enfolding him as tightly as they could. His hands were not
idle, slipping beneath her t-shirt to trace her spine,
moving over each individual vertebra, sliding over the
sensitive skin that encased her ribs.

His tongue was in her mouth and she'd never tasted anything
like him. When it retreated while he changed angles on the
kiss, she beat him to the punch and shoved her own tongue
between his lips. He groaned his approval into her mouth and
pulled her closer, if it was even possible for their bodies
to get closer together at this point.

Mulder's hand moved from her side, to her stomach, then
slowly climbed until he cupped one of her breasts in his
palm. She moaned low in her throat, shamelessly arching
further into his touch. He nibbled on her lower lip as he
brushed his thumb over her rapidly hardening nipple. She
felt heavy and hot, the blanket that still covered them, the
t-shirt she still wore constrictive, preventing the kind of
total obliteration of consciousness she craved.

Before she could move to rectify matters, however, someone
began pounding on the door and calling her name. Whoever
they were, she was afraid they were going to have to die a
slow, horrible death.

She heard Mulder groan next to her mouth, but this time it
was not a sound of pleasure or desire. It was a sound of
defeat and frustration.

"Come on, Dana, you lazy bones, time to get--" Samantha
stopped speaking mid-way and Scully forced an eye open just
in time to watch her friend's entire body freeze. "Whoops.
Sorry. I thought Fox went home hours ago." An amused smile
tugged at the corners of her mouth and she placed both hands
on her hips. "Although I'm very pleased he didn't. I think
Chuckie owes me another twenty bucks."

"Would you scram?" Mulder sounded almost as annoyed as she

"Sure, sure," Samantha agreed easily, already backing out of
the room. "Listen, sorry about this - please, don't let me
spoil the mood. I'll come back in an hour - would two be
better? - with some of the lasagna Chuckie's teaching me to
make. You two have fun. Don't do anything I wouldn't do.
Which ain't much." Her chatter finally ceased as the door
shut firmly behind her.

The room was dark and silent once more. Then: "Maybe we
should've tied a sock to the doorknob."

For some reason, that comment struck Scully as hysterically
funny. She began to giggle, and once she started, she
couldn't quite stop. Mulder's body began to shake next to
hers, and they were holding onto each other, laughing so
hard tears began to pour down both their cheeks.

"Did anyone ever tell you that your sister is one hell of a
mood killer?" Scully managed to get the sentence out
in-between gasping for breath.

"If I remember correctly, I used to tell her that all the
time back when I was in high school." He chuckled once more,
trying to regain control over his own breathing.

"Listen," she began hesitantly, only to have him interrupt.

"Scully, you don't have to say anything. I understand,
believe me. It was the heat of the moment. I don't expect
anything from you."

He didn't understand at all. "Mulder--"

He placed to fingers over her lips gently. "Scully, it's all
right. We'll take this slowly. I'd . . . I'd like to take it
slowly. Call me selfish, but I'd like you to trust me a
little more than you do before we take the next step."

How could she say no to that? She couldn't, that's how. Damn
him for being so sweet, and kind, and understanding, and
almost irresistibly sexy . . .

That was okay. He could have it his way. She'd let him feel
chivalrous, for now.

And the first chance she got, she would jump him.


Chapter 7- Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, Birthday Girl

"I have been on the verge of being an angel all my life, but
it's never happened yet." - Mark Twain


As long as he lived, he would never understand how he let
her talk him into these sorts of things.

When they were kids, he and Samantha used to participate in
all day pick-up games out on the Vineyard. Baseball had been
a pure, simple childhood joy. Simple had never quite cut it
for his baby sister, however, and she'd figured out a way to
make the game just a little bit more interesting.
Implementing what was possibly the most dangerous mandate in
history, she convinced seventeen kids to apply the
principals behind football to baseball.

In other words, they were divided into teams, then given
permission to leap on each other and wrestle the ball away
from whomever was unlucky enough to catch it. Samantha, of
course, did not participate in the game. She had always felt
she functioned best in a purely advisory capacity. And so,
she took on the thankless task of umpire, even though not
even the players were ever really sure what the object of
the game was, nor how you broke a rule.

Their parents were naturally upset when they came home, he
covered in bruises with a split lip, and she filthy with one
heck of a shiner Timmy Callahan had given her when she
determined the flying kamikaze tackle he let loose on Billy
Taylor was a foul. Somehow, despite her willingness to
accept her share of the blame, Mulder had been held
responsible for not watching his baby sister that day.

Samantha had been seven, he eleven. The following year,
Samantha decided it would tickle her fancy to run away. She
was gone for nearly an entire day, and their parents had
been frantic. Even he, once the novelty of not having her
tagging along behind him wore off, started to worry. It
wasn't that he honestly thought anything might happen to
her. She'd told him she was going to run away the day
before, just to see how long she could hide out in her
favorite place, underneath the bridge that ran over a now
dry creek.

Once it became painfully obvious Samantha wasn't coming home
that night, Mulder confessed to his mother where he
suspected his baby sister might be. Immediately, mother,
father and son drove as fast as they could to locate the
missing part of the equation, sister. And there sister
slept, peaceful as a baby, curled up in the afghan their
grandmother had given her on her third birthday.

Mulder almost hadn't been surprised when this, too, turned
out to be his fault.

To think, he never set out to be such a problem child.

Until a few years ago, he'd truly thought that he'd drawn
the short end of the stick. Maybe parents really =did= have
favorites, he'd thought glumly. Shortly after his mother
died, a conversation he had with his father finally shed
some light on that subject.

"We always knew you'd protect her, son." His father's gruff,
but ultimately loving voice had always been a source of
comfort. Teena Mulder played the traditional role of mother,
housewife and hostess. But there had been nothing
traditional in the way Bill Mulder raised his children, his
son in particular.

He tested them. Not in obvious ways, but always, lying under
the surface of almost everything he did, was a lesson. As a
child, he hadn't understood what his father was trying to
show him. But as an adult, after having several adult
conversations with the old man, Mulder finally began to gain
insight into him. He wanted both his children to be strong,
for certain. But Bill had also wanted them to care for one

To love one another was a given. To truly care though, to
support, to be a friend to the other, that was the difficult
part. So often, siblings grew apart as they grew older,
unable to get past such trivialities as "he broke my toy,"
and "she's stupid." Mulder and his sister, however, were
given character at an early age. And, by being held
accountable for each other's actions, they learned to stick

"Your mother and I wanted to be sure you'd always have each

Never once, on all the separate, numerous occasions Mulder
had been blamed for something his sister had done, did
Samantha stand idly by and watch him take her punishment.
Even when she was barely five years old, she still fessed up
and tried to convince their parents of her culpability.

Parents, Mulder mused, always seemed to have a funny way of
showing their love. Each family was different, with
different codes, conducts and ways of doing things. And, if
you were lucky, your family ended up being perfect for no
one else but you.

Though they'd had their moments, Mulder felt there was no
other family he would have rather been born into.

And, in a world where everything seemed to change on a
regular basis, it was good to know some things stayed
achingly the same.

"I am going to kill you for this."

"Dana, don't blame him, it was all my idea. He just helped
because I asked him to and he cares about you."

"I don't care. You =knew= I would hate this."

Mulder winced at Scully's tone, not to mention the coloring
in her cheeks. Mad enough to spit nails, his Aunt Louise had
been fond of saying.

"Scully," he began hesitantly.

"Don't," she snapped, turning those icy, rage-filled eyes in
his direction once more. He suppressed the urge to shiver in
a combination of fear and arousal he was not prepared to
admit to.

"Cake's burning," Charlie called helpfully from the kitchen.

"So take it out of the oven!" Samantha yelled back.

"You told me not to touch it," he taunted.

Mulder watched his sister ball her hands into tight little
fists, take deep breaths, and mentally count to ten. Twenty.
Thirty. "Just take the fucking thing out of the oven!" That
counting thing never had worked for her.

"Yes, Dear."

"You baked me a cake?" Mulder's attention snapped back to
Scully. My God, he thought, was that the same woman who'd
been ready to castrate me a few short moments ago? Was her
voice really all lost and teary, like a little girl?

Sam shrugged, like it was no big deal. He contained a snort.
His little sister was not, in any way, shape or form, a good
cook. From the very beginning, when she managed to burn
those brownie things in her Easy Bake Oven, it had been
abundantly clear to all involved that cooking was not her
forte. Still, that did not stop her from rousing him from
bed with the trilling of his cell phone to inform him that
today was Dana's birthday and he had better get his butt
over to her place to help her plan a surprise.

>From the moment he arrived, he had been reluctant. A
surprise party did =not= seem like Scully's style. The woman
he had shared a bed, and the best night's - day's - sleep
he'd had in years with yesterday detested the unexpected.
Samantha, though, could be utterly convincing when she put
her mind to it. By the time he showed up at her house, she
was already knee deep in cookbooks and batter.

Her paramour stood by with an amused smirk on his face,
biding time, apparently, until Scully came home and he got
to distract her by taking her out to lunch. The cake was
Samantha's. That was made clear from the start. No one got
to lick the spoon, no one got to taste the batter, no one
was even allowed to sniff around it too much. Dedicated as
she was, Samantha did not have a problem assigning
everything else about the meal to Mulder.

And, with the exception of a well-placed barb directed at
Charlie about whether or not he could peel potatoes, he
thought he'd handled himself rather well. He hadn't
complained about making broiled salmon with a lemon butter
cream sauce and steamed asparagus from scratch. Nope, he
just rolled up his sleeves and got to work. After all,
Samantha had known Scully longer, and if his little sister
thought the woman he was pretty sure he was in love with
would enjoy a surprise party, then he would help give her a
surprise party.

In retrospect, he really should have known better.

"I worked really hard on that cake." Samantha sniffed
pitifully for effect, and neither he, nor Scully, could keep
from snickering at the sound. That only increased her pout
and he watched the anger drain slightly from Scully's body.

"I know, Sam, I know." Her eyes closed, and he watched as
she took a few deep breaths, and it appeared the mentally
counting thing worked for her, because ten beats later, her
lids raised and a tentative smile hovered around the edges.
"I appreciate the thought."

Samantha beamed. "I knew you would."

"Not so fast," Scully warned. "I said I appreciate the
thought. That doesn't mean I'm enjoying the . . ." Her eyes
moved around the room, taking in the streamers, banners and
other various, colorful decorations. "Whatever the hell this
is," she muttered.

"I will never, as long as I live, understand this =thing=
you've got about your birthday," Samantha proclaimed.

Me either, Mulder mused, debating whether he'd attempt to
bring it up with Scully. True, they were decidedly closer
now than they had been a few days before. Way back then,
when they first met. He rolled his eyes at himself. Half the
time, he walked around in a love-fogged daze, wanting
nothing more than to be with her. The rest of the time, he
mentally smacked himself upside the head, trying to ram home
the fact that he'd only met her =four short days= ago.

Fortunately, or, depending on your perspective,
unfortunately, the love-crazed part of him didn't pay much
mind to the logical side, and the love-crazed was far

"Is my life still in danger, or can I go back into the
kitchen and keep my salmon from burning?"

Ooo, she was so =sexy= when her eyebrow did that thing. "You

"You don't have to sound so incredulous." He quirked a smile
at her. "Legend has it that I can actually put flame to food
without starting an international incident."

 Damn, now she was starting to look uncomfortable. "I didn't
mean to imply anything . . ." She trailed off, and he
started to get concerned. Was she about to cry?

"Sam, your cake needs to cool before you can frost it. Take
Charlie to the store and pick me up some Caesar salad
dressing, would you?"

"I have Caesar salad dressing," she answered, looking at him

He narrowed his eyes at her. "I want the =special= Caesar
salad dressing. The kind you have to go to the store for."

"Ohhhhh." No one could draw a word out like Samantha.
"Riiiiiight. I'll just go get Chuckie."

As she exited the room, Mulder glanced over at Scully, a
sheepish expression on his face. "She's very subtle, isn't

"Just like her brother," she agreed, her arms folded over
one another protectively.

Charlie and Samantha departed in record time, and Scully
followed Mulder into the kitchen while he checked on the
salmon. Perfect. He added a few squirts of lemon, covered it
up, and glanced toward where Scully was stirring the sauce.
He poked his head over her shoulder and rested his chin
against the crook of her neck. Her body tensed and he
debated moving away. Ultimately, he decided he was going to
stay close until she asked him not to.

"You stir like a pro," he whispered into her ear.

"I'm sorry."

Gently, he placed one of his hands on her upper arm and
rubbed slowly, up and down. "What are you sorry for?"

"For this irrational thing I have with my birthday." Tired
and small. That was the only way he could describe her
voice. It scared him. There was nothing small about Scully.
Tired, yes, but never small. She had strength; reserves
hidden inside reserves, given the numerous things she'd told
him about, and the things he knew she still couldn't talk

"Nobody likes getting older," he offered. He was at a loss
as to how to play this. Like a psychologist, or a lover?
Prospective lover. Whatever.

"It's not that. It's not . . . that." Banging the spoon
against the side of the pan, she let it fall to the counter
and turned around so she was facing him. "Jack and I have
the same birthday."

Jack. The scum sucking, incarcerated,
almost-but-not-quite-ex-husband. He'd never hated someone he
hadn't even met before. It was a surreal feeling. The man
didn't even have a face he could concentrate on. He was just
Jack, the man who'd hurt the woman he was beginning to think
of as his, and he hated him. He hated him nearly as much as
the monster that drove him out of the Bureau.

"I can't imagine how difficult that must be, that reminder
on what should be a private, personal celebration each
year." He cupped her cheek gently, tilted her face upward so
that he was looking into her eyes. Studying her face for a
moment, he began to stroke his fingers soothingly over her
cheek, the side of her neck. "There's something else."

Her tongue darted out to lick the corner of her mouth. She
tried to look anywhere but at him, but given their close
proximity, there was nowhere to hide. "The first year we
were married, I planned this big surprise party for Jack. I
invited mutual friends, old Bureau acquaintances, his
family, my family . . ." She sucked in a deep breath.

"The entire night, he never once mentioned my birthday. No
one did. It was like . . . I didn't even exist. I didn't
even mind that, really, it was later. We were lying in bed
that night, and I gave him a watch to replace another I'd
given him that broke on duty. It had a special inscription
on the back, and he just said . . . 'thanks, babe,' and went
to sleep."

"I'm sorry," he mumbled, bringing the hand at his side to
gently rub the tension from the back of her neck. He had no
idea what else to say, so he opted to listen. Sure enough,
she had more to say.

"I still don't understand it. How do you forget a spouse's
birthday when it's the same as your own? How do you do
that?" Shaking her head, she looked down at the floor. "It's
such a minor thing, in the grand scheme, but . . . it hurt.
It hurt then, and it hurts now." A humorless laugh passed
her lips. "He never did remember my birthday. He barely
remembered his own."

"It's not a minor thing," he whispered softly. He waited
until she looked up at him again before smiling gently.
"It's your birthday. You're supposed to commemorate the day
you were brought into this world. Personally, February
twenty-third is my new favorite day."

"You amaze me," was what he thought he heard her mumble.
Before he could be sure, however, he felt her nose brush
against the hollow of his throat.

When had she gotten so close? He was assaulted by memories
of the day before. Shortly after his sister had
inadvertently interrupted their interlude, they got out of
bed. He had put on his jeans, but as she was wearing the
only shirt he had, they looked at one another in silence for
several minutes before an embarrassed look crossed her face.
He had smiled, to let her know there was nothing to be
embarrassed about, then turned his back to give her privacy.

Seconds later, he'd felt his t-shirt hit the back of his
head. He'd slipped it on and turned back to her, only to
find her bare back the only sight he could focus on. He
couldn't look away, as much as he tried. She was wearing
nothing but a pair of white cotton panties. Hanes Her Way,
if he wasn't mistaken. Swallowing audibly, he'd mumbled
something about having to get home and work on the ending to
his latest novel. A deadline was pending, even though he
hadn't really remembered that at the time.

The necessity to leave her bedroom before he threw her down
on the ground and ravished her had been the only clear
thought in his head. Now, though, he wasn't quite as
diligent. Both their siblings would be back soon. They were
in a kitchen, in broad daylight, fully clothed. What could

"You have beautiful eyes."

"You read my mind," he muttered, uncomfortable with the way
her body was molding itself to his. Distraction, that's what
he needed. Her eyes provided it. While he was trying to
pinpoint what the exact shade of blue her eyes were, she
started playing with his hair.

There was no other way he could describe it. Twirling,
sifting, tugging, her fingers were busy and her teeth were
nibbling at his neck. Fuck. No, not fuck, that was the
point, there was to be no fuck whatsoever. Damn. This was
not helping him keep the promise he'd made to himself.

"You taste good, too," she whispered, swiping her tongue
from the hollow of his throat, to the tip of his chin. "I
couldn't believe how good you tasted yesterday. I was
thinking about it all night."

"Scully," he squawked, cursing the traitorous hands that
were caressing up and down her sides. "Scully . . . the . .
. the salmon's burning." Good. Grasp at straws and hold on
for dear life.

"I don't care about the salmon," she whispered around a
mouthful of his ear.

"But Scully . . ." The thought left his head as she sucked
his earlobe into her mouth. "The salmon is my birthday gift
to you." That was loud. That was louder than it should have

She did not seem to notice. Instead of commenting, she
licked his lower lip. He tried hard, but was unable to
contain a moan. Her hand trailed down his chest and cupped
the rapidly hardening bulge beneath his pants. "Then you'll
just have to figure out something else to give me."

Oh sweet Jesus. Again, he tried to think, but all the blood
that should have been in his head was rushing to his lower
body. Focus, focus, focus; this is about her. This is about
what she needs. Despite what she says, she isn't ready for
this, he told himself for the thousandth time. She doesn't
really want me right now; she doesn't know what she wants.

"I do want you," she whispered, those beautiful, un-nameable
blue eyes staring up into his. Had she read his mind? Or
simply felt the hesitation in his body? "I want you so much,
Mulder. I've never wanted anyone or anything this badly. It
scares the hell out of me, but I won't let fear stop me
anymore. I can't. I won't survive the rest of my life if I

And the straws in his grip fluttered to the floor like dust.


"I keep on searching for the old me. I keep on thinking I
can change. I keep on hoping for a new day. Will I ever feel
the same? Now I wonder." - Chris Isaak, "I Wonder"


Good God, he had such a beautiful mouth.

His lower lip was huge, pulled into a perpetual pout, with
the exception of when he was smiling. And that smile was her
second most favorite position his lips could form. Her
favorite, she was learning, was when his control snapped and
he crushed his mouth to hers.

The honest words she'd given him had barely been out of her
mouth when his eyes darkened, the hand on her side moved to
the back of her neck, and she found herself half bent
backwards against the counter with the force of his kiss.
Reluctantly, she removed her hand from the front of his
pants, placed both hands against the back of his head and
pulled him as close as she could.

Doubt was definitely still prevalent in her mind. It didn't
matter that he was a great kisser. It didn't matter that
when he held her close, she almost felt safe. And it
certainly didn't matter that he made her laugh again, after
she thought she'd forgotten how. She refused to pin all her
hopes and dreams on this single relationship. She couldn't
afford to, and neither could Kelly.

Yes, she wanted this. But that's all she could let it be.
Sex. Maybe it could even be a little bit about love. But she
would =not= let herself trust him.

Which was, of course, easier said than done. Mulder inspired
trust. And he was so sweet, and sexy, and =nice=, damn him.
He was funny, in a tragic, poignant sort of way. Was that
what was attracting her? The pain she sensed beneath his
glib, charming exterior?

It was twisted, she decided as his hands fastened around her
ass and lifted her onto the counter. Incapable of healing
herself or sustaining an important, meaningful romantic
relationship again, she nonetheless wanted to ease his pain.
She wanted to give him what she knew she was incapable of
giving anyone.

Rather than tell him this, she was instead putting the
emotional to the side and giving him what she could.
Physically, she could give him anything he wanted. And he
did want her. She could feel it in the way his hands moved
over her body, the way his mouth managed to be rough and
gentle at the same time. It felt so good to be wanted this
way. He was almost single minded when he let go of himself.

He was between her legs, their crotches thrusting against
each other when Scully thanked God they hadn't gotten to the
clothing removal stage yet. Because beyond the kitchen door,
she heard her sister's voice calling her name.

"Damn it, stop, stop," she whispered, trying to extricate
herself from Mulder's embrace. It wasn't easy, as neither of
them really wanted her to leave it. But this wasn't like
Samantha walking in on them. If Melissa was here, it meant
that Kelly was with her, and there was no way Scully was
mentally prepared to explain to Kelly why the man was
mauling Dana, nor why she liked it.

"That voice calling your name wasn't in my head, was it?" he
muttered, pulling away with much reluctance.

Drawn into his eyes, a tiny moan left her mouth. There was
so much need there. Hunger, mixed with concern and . . . no.
She would not acknowledge the other emotion, so clear and
open to her. It would be a mistake of epic proportions to
see what was so obviously there. It would mean discarding
the plan she had and destroying any chance they had for some

That's all it could be. Fun. They would have a good time,
and one day, when he was settled down with a wife and
children of his own, he would occasionally remember the
redhead he'd shared a few great days with. The woman who, if
she was lucky, would get to keep a little piece of him
without sacrificing her own sanity.

Scully herself hadn't even realized how broken she was until
she started wanting what she couldn't have. What Jack did
had damaged her, for sure. But she truly hadn't realized how
much until she couldn't bring herself to tell Mulder the
whole story. She had a world of responsibility ahead of
her.  A little girl who needed her, and absolutely no time
to get a life of her own. It was all about Kelly.

One week is what she had left. One week Melissa had insisted
she take. That's what she'd have with Mulder. One perfect
little week. And then she would go back to her real life.
The life that didn't involve long, sweet kisses,
conversations about nothing and everything, and laughing
because you couldn't see why not to.

A life with no warm, sexy, perfect hazel eyes to feel safe

"Salmon's burning," she whispered with some effort,
straightening her clothes and hair as she pulled away from
him all the way.

"Yeah," he muttered, doing the same. Before he moved away,
however, he sent her a look that curled her toes. Hot damn.

Self-consciously, she continually smoothed bits of hair
behind her ears as she walked through the kitchen door, and
into the living room. Standing in the center of the gaily
decorated living room, she found her sister and the little
girl she had no idea how to relate to.

"Hi." First, she spoke to Kelly. The little girl
acknowledged her presence, but did little more than that.
With a sigh, Scully turned toward Melissa. "Hey, big

"How are you, Dana?" Melissa embraced Scully and for a few
seconds, she remembered what it was like years ago, the year
before Melissa went away to college. That was the closest
they'd ever been and a hug from her big sister worked
wonders on her disposition.

"I'm fine."

Pulling away, Scully crouched down and hugged Kelly, mindful
of how tense the small child was in her arms. It was
important that Kelly felt loved, whether she was willing to
accept that love yet, or not. The point was, eventually she
=would= be ready, and when she was, Scully intended to be

"Have you been having fun with Melissa?" Dutifully ignoring
how lame she sounded, Scully brushed bits of hair out of
Kelly's face. Her touch was nervous, and she knew it was
half the reason Kelly had trouble relating to her. Scully's
fear was palpable, and anyone with a pulse could feel it.

"We went horseback riding." Nobody's voice should be that

"You took her horseback riding?" Though she was still on
Kelly's level, the question had been focused on Melissa. She
was only six!

Melissa, for her part, looked amused. "You were six the
first time dad took us," she pointed out.

Eyes narrowing, Scully turned back to Kelly and forced a
smile. It wasn't her fault Melissa's uncanny ability to read
her little sister's mind drove her up the wall. "It's such a
wonderful surprise to see you," she told Kelly, internally
cracking up. It had been quite a day for surprises.

"Missy said it was your birthday and I wanted to say happy
birthday." Her words ran together, betraying her
nervousness. Scully tried to soothe it away with her touch,
a gentle hand on her shoulder, but feared her own nerves got
in the way. "Happy birthday."

"Thank you. It's certainly happier with you here."

The front door opened and closed loudly.

"Okay, Foxy Loxy, we got some "special" Caesar salad
dressing and - hello."

Smiling tightly, Scully stood and winced as her knees popped
a little. That would teach her to give up jogging.
"Samantha, I'd like you to meet someone very special."
Standing behind Kelly, she placed both hands on the little
girl's shoulders. "This is Kelly. Kelly, this is my good
friend, Samantha, and you remember my brother, Charlie."

"Hi," she said quietly.

"Hey, Kiddo," Samantha greeted warmly, crouching down to
Kelly's level. "Did you come to surprise Dana on her
birthday too?"

"Yes. Did you surprise her?"

"This whole party is a surprise for Dana, cause we think
she's so special." Samantha's eyes caught on something
behind Scully.

She turned to see for herself, and found Mulder peeking out
of the kitchen. How long had he been watching?

"Fox, come here and meet Kelly and Melissa," Samantha called

Scully felt guilty for not having introduced Samantha and
Melissa immediately, then remembered the two women had
actually met weeks ago. Chalking it up alongside the myriad
of other things she'd forgotten over the past few months,
Scully kept a hand on Kelly's shoulder as they turned as one
to face Mulder.

Like his sister, Mulder knelt on one knee until he looked
Kelly in the eye. "Hi. My name is Fox."

"Hi Fox, my name is Kelly." She held out her hand and Mulder
took it in his much larger one. Solemnly, they shook. As
soon as politeness dictated, however, Kelly all but snatched
her hand back and inched closer to Scully.

It had been the same the first time she met Charlie, Scully
remembered. Kelly was uncomfortable around men, mostly, she
thought, because the only person she'd had any substantial
amounts of contact with for the first six years of her life
had been her mother. Jack hadn't seen his daughter much,
despite his professions of family to his wife when he'd been

Pushing bitter thoughts away, Scully again sifted her
fingers through Kelly's hair. Mulder stood and turned his
attention to Melissa.

"Fox Mulder," he offered, holding out his hand.

"Melissa Scully," she replied, shaking his hand firmly.

A heavy silence took over the room. Mulder stuffed his hands
into his pockets; Samantha folded hers behind her back.
Scully continued to fiddle with Kelly's hair until it
apparently annoyed the little girl enough to swat at her
nervous hands. Melissa looked thoroughly amused at everyone
else's discomfort. Charlie broke the silence when he cleared
his throat.

Melissa finally gave in to the urge to laugh. "Well, I
haven't had this much fun since I broke up with my almost

"Almost fiancé?" Scully couldn't believe Mulder had the
balls to ask.

Melissa, apparently, liked that about him. Respect shone in
her eyes before she answered him. "He asked. I declined. We
were forced to spend the next hour and a half at a dinner
honoring his father."

"Sounds awkward," he said glibly, causing snickers to leap
from both Samantha and Charlie's mouths.

"I'm starved," Scully announced, willing to do anything at
this point, if it would only get them all out of this room.

"Well, dinner's ready." Mulder chewed on his bottom lip for
a moment. "I don't suppose you like salmon, do you?" He was
asking Kelly. That he'd even think of it touched Scully's

Kelly wrinkled her nose in response, and his next words
didn't surprise her in the least. "I suppose I'll have to
make you a burger then." He winked at Kelly
conspiratorially. "Although it would hurt my feelings if you
don't at least =try= my salmon."

"She likes to try new things," Scully assured him. "Don't

Kelly nodded, and it only hurt a tiny bit, Scully tried to
tell herself with next to no success, when the little girl
latched onto Melissa's hand as they all headed for the
dining room.


"We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are."
-Anais Nin


"I'm trying too hard, aren't I?"

Melissa watched as her sister determinedly refused to meet
her eyes. How to answer that, she wondered internally. "I
think you love her very much," she began carefully.

"Too much?"

"There's no such thing as loving too much."

"Tell that to Jack," Dana muttered bitterly.

"That wasn't love," Melissa reminded her sister

Damn, she was uncomfortable with these feelings. Hate was
not a productive emotion. It led to all the evils in the
world. Yet she hated Jack Willis; hated everything about
him, saw in him no redeeming characteristics. He had
terrorized her sister, trapped her in a marriage Melissa
still shuddered to think about, and, in the end, completely
destroyed the confidence Dana had in herself.

Hate didn't quite describe how she felt about Jack Willis.

As much as she loved Kelly, as much as she didn't blame that
beautiful little girl for the sins of her parents, she
wished Dana had more time to heal before the responsibility
of becoming a mother had hit her. But Kelly didn't have
time. Kelly needed someone then. And, rather than take any
time for herself, Dana threw herself full force into being
what Kelly needed.

And a few weeks ago, the whole house of cards started to
fall down on her.

That was when Melissa insisted she take a break. A week or
two, maybe three, to think things through; to find something
she needed to find inside her own soul. Dana had lost her
spiritual self over the years. It was something that had
worried Melissa greatly, but she knew how powerless she was
to change it. Only Dana could make that choice.

Luckily, Jack hadn't remained hidden forever. It might have
taken years too long, but eventually he had revealed himself
for the monster Melissa had long suspected he was. And when
the time came, Dana made the right decision.

If only she hadn't been forced to, Melissa thought for the
hundredth time. If only, if only, if only . . .

"I feel as though I'm failing her," Dana confessed softly.

"Oh, Dana, you must never think that." Melissa placed a hand
over her sister's where it rested on the table between them.
"You're just very new to motherhood. And you didn't have the
luxury of getting to know a baby before having to nurture
her in different ways. A fully-grown child was thrust upon
you. Under the circumstances, you've done remarkably well."

"Under the circumstances isn't good enough for Kelly," Dana
snapped. "She deserves to have someone who can help her. All
I seem to do is hold her back. My grief, my pain is
preventing her from getting past her own. She watched her
father murder her mother." The horror in her voice chilled
Melissa, almost as much as the act itself had. "How is
anyone supposed to be okay after that?"

"Dana, when you were with the Bureau, you saw things like
that," Melissa began hesitantly.

"It was different," Dana insisted. "As horrible as it may
sound to say, I didn't know those people. Yes, it was still
horrific, but ultimately they were strangers. I didn't have
to hear them scream when they woke up in the middle of the
night, and I didn't hear the people who hurt them laughing
at me in my dreams."

"You're still having the nightmares." It wasn't a question.
They both knew the answer, and they both knew Dana wasn't
about to give it.

"I'm scared for her. I'm scared I'll never learn how to be
her mother, I'm scared she'll never be able to have a normal
life, and . . ." Dana fought back both the tears, and the
crumpling of her face. Melissa wished, not for the first
time, that her sister would allow herself to cry more.
"Hell, I'm even scared she'll be happier with you."

She was ashamed of that; ashamed to admit to a perfectly
human emotion. At least they were finally getting down to
the crux of the matter. When Dana had asked for this
impromptu meeting after dinner, before cake, Melissa
suspected there was a bit more than catching up on Kelly to

"I wish you'd give yourself more credit."

Dana laughed bitterly. "More credit? Why? I've already
screwed up my own life, and I'm well on the way to screwing
up Kelly's. She's no closer to coming out of her shell now,
than she was ten months ago. Obviously, I deserve a fucking

"You know that's not true," Melissa seethed, refusing to
give Dana the satisfaction of reacting to her foul language.
It had always bothered her when their brothers had used bad
language, but Dana had always sworn like a sailor. "Kelly
was in a near catatonic state when you first found her."

"And she's Chatty Cathy now," Dana cut in with a weary sigh.
Beneath the sarcasm, Melissa could hear the genuine concern.

"You're doing as well as can be expected under the
circumstances," Melissa repeated again, running out of words
for once. "And that will be good enough for Kelly."

"I hope you're right," Dana said quietly. Melissa got the
impression she didn't believe it, though.


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