Revised version of the fic originally posted in August, now with gorgeous art by mypanicface.tumblr.com, be sure to check her out!!!
art by @mypanicface
chapter one. Berlin, 1931
Germany is not a safe place for a Jew.
He knows that, and yet he’s found himself here, a place he never wanted to be again.
He’s just here for a friend. An American friend, and if he really thinks about it he would’ve told the American friend No.
But Fox Mulder has always liked a good adventure, a good mystery. Even better when the mystery involves a nightclub, sex, dancing, girls.
Besides. He is young and he is invincible, and his family is Dutch so he always figures he can escape to Holland if need be, if things get a little too intense for his taste. His Dutch is poor, his German is worse, but he always has a way out if he needs it.
Here is what he notices first, fresh from the Potsdamer Platz Bahnhof, luggage still in his hand and sweat on his brow: the smoke. He briefly gave up smoking when he was in the Army (God, was that only a few years ago?) but the smell makes his mouth water, brings it back, and his hands are already itching for a cigarette. But certainly there will be some at the club, and if not, then at least there will be beer.
He knows he should find a phone before he does anything. Call his American friend, Skinner, old Army buddy from back in the day, back when they were boys who didn’t know better. He’s not that old now but his body likes reminding him of his limits, even at 33.
Truth told he should call Skinner anyway, get more information on what exactly the fuck he’s doing here, why he ever agreed to come back to this God-forsaken country, why he’s agreed to investigate some cabaret club out in the middle of nowhere.
But he was bored in the States. Office work doesn’t suit him.
Conspiracies, chasing monsters—that suits him. So when Skinner called him out of the blue and asked if he’d like to go back to Berlin, something fishy was happening, well—
how could he say no?
The Kit Kat Klub is dim, as smoke-filled as the Bahnhof had been. But the girls are hard to miss. Women, he should say upon closer inspection, though he’s pretty sure there’s at least one man in drag.
How has this place not been shut down yet?
He takes a seat at the bar and sets his suitcase next to him and orders a beer, his eyes traveling around the dimly lit space. There are chairs pushed against the walls, a baby grand in the corner, space on the floor for dancing, and an incredibly small stage.
And the girls. Women. In lace and black and almost nothing, sauntering around, laughing at gentlemen who are far, far wealthier than Mulder. They give him a glance and they see the suitcase and the outfit and they smirk and turn away, a smirk that says he can’t afford even one of them for the night.
He doesn’t mind. That’s not why he’s here, not anyway.
He takes another sip of his beer, forgetting how strong German brews are and nearly choking on it. A hand pats his back, and he coughs, turns.
The man sitting in front of him has to be official. Has to be. He’s not wearing the uniform of the SS, but Mulder’s spent long enough with men in authority to recognize one when he sees one.
Is this who Skinner met? Is this the contact he’s supposed to watch, the man he’s supposed to be observing?
The man is old, and he smells like smoke, but a different brand than what’s in the bar.
“Careful,” he says in German, the syllables heavy in Mulder’s ears. “Wouldn’t want you to choke before a woman even dances with you.”
“I’m not here to dance,” Mulder says, deciding on English, and the man laughs.
“American. Of course you are not. What’s your name?”
“Fox,” Mulder says, not volunteering his surname.
“Just Fox? Der Schlaukopf?”
Mulder knows enough to know that’s not the word for the animal fox, but he smiles and lets the man have his laugh anyway.
“Nur Fox,” he says, in badly accented German. Just Fox.
“Okay then, nur Fox, what brings an American man to Berlin—to the Kit Kat Klub—if he’s not going to dance?”
“I’m here to observe—to write,” he says. “I’m a writer.”
It’s a joke between him and Skinner that became his cover, drunk one night while Skinner read Mulder’s letter home to his mother, damn you shoulda been a poet, and if the war hadn’t happened maybe he would’ve been.
“Surely an American can write anywhere.” The man’s smile doesn’t quite reach his eyes.
“True,” Mulder says, considering his words, “but there’s no place like Berlin.”
The man raises his glass, considering, as a spotlight floods the room. An emcee’s voice fills the air, sardonic and playful, though Mulder can’t understand the words. He thinks he catches a woman’s name but he can’t be sure.
There she is.
He is captivated by her immediately. Her hair is bright red, a fire under the spotlight. She’s small but in perfect control of every movement, her skin creamy and white and pale. Her lips are as red as her hair. She’s in a black corset, heels, stockings that reach up her thigh.
When she locks eyes with him, he forgets all about the mission. About everything but the woman in front of him.
Her gaze flicks to the man beside him and falters, just for a moment. But she turns her attention back to Mulder and gives him a wink.
Somewhere, a band starts playing. And the woman starts singing. Her voice isn’t strong, but it’s low and husky and inviting, and Mulder wants to drown in it.
“Captivating, isn’t she?” the man next to Mulder says, and it takes Mulder a minute to register that he’s speaking heavily accented English. “Came here only a month ago and immediately became our headliner. Brings in more than half the girls combined.”
He glances over at Mulder, who understands then who the man is—Der Natter. The viper. The owner of the club, the one Skinner warned him about.
Mulder licks his dry lips, takes another sip of his beer. “Who is she?”
Der Natter tips his head. “Her name is Dana. I am certain you cannot afford her.” His voice is cold, matter-of-fact. “But you are a writer, and she does like her men romantic. If she likes you, if you stay—” and here his eyes cut back to Mulder— “I may have a job for you.”
The name rolls around in his head. Distinctly, decidedly not German. He likes it immediately for that.
“She’s gorgeous, no?” Der Natter says. He stands and claps Mulder on the shoulder. “Maybe if you’re lucky, I’ll arrange a visit between the two of you.”
Mulder chokes down the last of his beer. “I’d like that.”
He pretends not to notice the way the man’s eyes linger on Dana. Already he feels possessive of her, even though she isn’t his. She does two more songs, each more sultry than the last, each time a little more clothing coming off. Mulder finds himself drooling.
He’s not the only one. Most of the men in the car can’t take their eyes off her, to the dismay of the girls around them. It’s clear since she arrived they haven’t been getting as much business.
There are whistles and catcalls as Dana finishes her set, winks at the audience, then heads backstage. Mulder nurses the last of his beer. Der Natter left his side awhile ago, and now stands in a corner talking to a younger man, gesturing wildly. For a moment Mulder briefly entertains a fantasy of going backstage and finding Dana while Der Natter isn’t looking, forgetting what assignment Skinner gave him and just getting to know the woman with the red hair.
But then reality cuts in. He still needs a place to stay. The suitcase sits by his side. Skinner had given him the name of another contact of his Mulder was free to stay with, but if he’s honest, he wants to be close to the club.
He heads up to Der Natter. The beer makes him bolder. “Mein Herr,” he begins, for he at least knows that, “would I be able to trouble you for a room nearby?”
The man laughs. “You have known me all of ten minutes and you come to met asking for a room? Surely you would have found one before you came to Berlin.”
Mulder licks his lips. “If I may be so bold, the setting of the—the club, is more inspiring than I anticipated. I’d be honored to have a room near the establishment. I can pay,” he adds, as if that will sweeten the deal, when in reality it’s what’s expected.
Der Natter pauses and considers him. Mulder feels distinctly as if he’s being x-rayed. He watches as the man pulls out a cigarette and turns to the younger man next to him to light it. He takes a few puffs, still considering Mulder.
“You’re in luck, Fox,” he says after a minute. “I think we can work out a deal. My associate Krycek needs lessons in English. Who better than a writer?”
Krycek. The name sears itself into Mulder’s skull. Krycek’s eyes appraise Mulder, who swallows. As distrustful as he is of Germans, Russians are worse.
“Pleasure,” Krycek says, and when he shakes Mulder’s hand, does it linger a little too long?
“If you give him—let’s say weekly lessons—then the spare room above the cabaret is yours; I have no use for it.” Der Natter smiles, all teeth, and Mulder tries not to cough from the cigarette smoke.
“I can do that,” Mulder says. The older man nods and seemingly out of nowhere, presses a key into Mulder’s palm.
“Frau Schmidt is the landlady, tell her I sent you. If she protests, tell her again,” he says. “You are my guest now.”
The smile he gives Mulder tells him he would eat him alive the first chance he got.
“And, Herr Mulder? Welcome to Berlin.”
The room Frau Schmidt shows him to is small, but then again he’s used to worse. He sets his suitcase down and glances around.
It’s dimly lit, with the nightstand and a table lamp shoved in the far corner. There’s not much of a view; he overlooks the alley behind the club, and the room itself is musty.
With a sigh he goes to open the window and is only able to force it open a small amount. The alley is dark and smells faintly of smoke.
He should sleep, he knows. He needs to explore the city in the morning, maybe actually write something, and he’s supposed to teach Krycek first thing tomorrow morning.
But the room is musty and he needs to clear his head from the smoke in the club, the beer and the promises he made to a man he barely knows. He pushes the window open just a little further and sticks his head out.
What has he gotten himself into?
Is any of this going to be worth it?
Laughter down below distracts him from his thoughts, and he glances down, realizing that the alley he’s looking into is directly behind the club. A man and woman step out, the man holding the woman by the wrist. The laughter comes again, though it’s decidedly harsher than what Mulder held before.
With a shock, he realizes he knows the pair. Der Natter. And the flaming red hair must be Dana.
He can’t hear what they’re saying; he suspects they’re arguing in German anyway so even if he could hear it he wouldn’t understand. The rigid precision of the language trips out of their mouths, sharp even in the heat of an argument.
Der Natter pulls Dana to him, and jealousy twists in Mulder’s gut already. But she wrenches away, quickly, and for a wild moment Mulder thinks the older man will backhand her, before he too steps away and pulls out a cigarette.
She glances up. And before Mulder can stop her or look away, her gaze meets his. There’s something defiant and challenging in that gaze. A look daring him to say something and to keep quiet all at once.
He can’t tear his eyes away from her.
The next few days pass in a blur as he explores the city by day and the club by night. Already he is picking up phrases and words; already he is beginning to learn which girls he can buy a drink and which he should leave alone.
And then there is Dana, always Dana. She still hasn’t spoken to him, hasn’t even acknowledged him except for the few times a night she comes out for a smoke after he’s already in his room. There, she makes eye contact with him from his window, gives a little nod, and goes back inside.
He’s wondering what it will take to get an audience with her. To do something to curry her favor.
Maybe he could just buy her a cigarette. Offer to write her something—no, that’s stupid, that’s so stupid.
He tells himself it’s because he needs a way to get to Der Natter, find out what he’s up to. But truth is Dana is gorgeous, and he knows he wants an audience with her for his own selfish reasons.
He doesn’t get one until his fourth visit to the club, and even that is totally unexpected. He’s sitting at the bar, nursing his drink. It’s an old whiskey, from a year he’d rather forget. One of the women catches his eye. She has dark hair, a bewitching smile. She’s been trying to get him for the last few nights, he knows.
Krycek sits at the end of the bar. His first lesson with Mulder went well; he has a better grasp on English than Mulder expected. When their communication fell through they spoke a rough form of German.
Almost every night now he’s seen Der Natter and Dana arguing in the alley. He doesn’t understand what they argue about though he can guess; Der Natter more than once has left his arm around Dana’s waist like he owns her, though he’s old enough to be her father.
But it’s none of Mulder’s business. Skinner wants him to investigate Der Natter, sure, but what the man does with the girls of his club is none of Mulder’s business.
The chatter dies down and one of the acts starts up, the dark-haired woman from earlier. Her voice is prettier than Dana’s, but she’s got nowhere near the appeal, and it’s evident that she knows it, and so do the men around him.
But she’s pretty enough, and her undergarments are lacy enough, and the song is sultry enough, so what do they care?
The lights flash rapidly when her song reaches a fever pitch and suddenly he is back on a war-torn field in France, near the Marne river, and there are gunshots and screams and—
He needs air.
He rushes out of the club and is greeted by the chilly night, the frost ripping into his lungs. He leans against a wall and closes his eyes. Too close, it was all too close. And the smell of smoke and the German just reminded him of the war and he had— he had to get out.
Skinner doesn’t get like this. If he does, he and Mulder don’t talk about it.
It takes him a minute to register that the words are in English. The voice is decidedly feminine, and he turns.
Dana stands in front of him. She’s in the slinky red dress she wore during her number, a cigarette pursed between her lips. For a moment he is speechless, stunned by the sight of this woman in front of him. He coughs, finds his voice.
“I’m fine.” She doesn’t need to know about the way his hands tremble, about the nightmares of smoke and fog and screams.
She grinds out the cigarette under her heel. “I don’t believe that for a minute.” Her accent throws him.
She shrugs. “Did you think I wasn’t?”
“Your German is very good.”
“Mm. It has to be,” she says. Her voice is soft and husky, a contrast with an accent he’s always expected to be sharp and clean. “You’re Fox.”
He blushes. “Mulder. No—no one calls me Fox except my mother. And you’re Dana.”
Something dark passes over her face when he says her name. He suspects she’s heard it out of the mouths of too many men. “If we’re going by last names, Mulder, then I supposed you can call me Scully.” The corner of her mouth quirks up, a joke only she knows. “What exactly are you here for?”
He likes her more for this. No bullshit.
“I’m here to write,” he says, shrugging.
“About the club?” Her eyes narrow. “That’s a long way for an American to travel. Surely there are things in your home you can write about?”
She sounds like Der Natter, and Mulder fleetingly wonders if she would be asking him this if she hadn’t been spending so much time with that man.
“There’s no place like Berlin,” he replies, echoing himself from earlier. She gives him a nod, but her eyes never leave his.
Her eyes are blue. And he’s seen so many blue eyes here, but hers? Hers are knowing and quick and he finds he can’t tear himself away from them.
She finishes her cigarette and immediately lights another. “So what do you write?” she asks after a minute. “Songs? Poetry?”
“No,” he says. “I can’t rhyme worth a damn. I write stories.”
A smile pulls up the corners of her mouth. “You’re going to put me in a story?”
“I may,” he says. “I mean. A woman like you.”
It’s the wrong thing to say, and he knows it immediately as the words fall out of his mouth. Her face clouds over.
“And what kind of woman am I?”
“I don’t know yet.”
That earns him a laugh. Teasing, patronizing, and he already knows he will do anything to hear that laugh again.
“Well, Mulder,” Dana—no, Scully—says, sidling up to him. “Maybe you’ll get a chance to find out.”
She is so close to him. Her perfume is heady and intoxicating and he wants her immediately.
But then the door to the alley swings open, and Krycek is staring at the two of them, and just like that Scully has pulled away, and before Mulder knows it the door is shut, and she is gone, and he is
He sees no sign of Dana for the next two days. She’s not at the club, and she isn’t performing, much to the dismay of the men in the audience as much as Mulder.
She doesn’t cause a commotion when she comes back, and this, Mulder understands, is something: it means it’s not a rare occurrence for her to leave. What’s stranger, to him, is there’s no sign of Der Natter either.
Then again, perhaps that isn’t so strange.
About a week into his stay Mulder forces himself to get away from the club, away from Frau Schmidt and Krycek; the former who keeps knocking on his door every hour to see if he needs something, the latter who keeps looking at him for a long time every time Mulder heads downstairs for a drink. He slips away while the sun is still rising and makes his way down the street, hat pulled low over his head until he’s a few blocks from the club.
He stops on a corner and looks around. Being in the club so often—he’s taken to getting most of his meals there—has made him forget that there is a world outside it. Men and women mill around him, talking in laughing in German and sometimes, occasionally French, heading to work or who-knows-where. Rebuilding, after the war.
He didn’t expect this. He expected disappointment and downcast faces, but then again, it has been so long since the war.
(Not long for him, or the other men who fought. He still sees their faces when he closes his eyes, as much as he tries not to.)
He finds a pay phone down a side alley near Friedrichstraße, scans the instructions six times before he finally successfully places a call to Skinner.
“Mulder. About time,” and his friend laughs. “How is Berlin treating you? The club?”
“It’s… a lot,” Mulder says, and Skinner laughs again. Mulder puts his arm on the top of the telephone, leans his head against it. He feels distinctly like he’s being watched, though when he glances around there’s no one.
“Anything to report?”
“I’m giving English lessons to a Russian.”
“No kidding. Hope you’re not telling him too much.” Skinner’s voice is teasing, but serious. They’ve known each other for almost a decade and Mulder is only just now able to tell when Skinner is joking with him.
“I’m not,” Mulder protests. “Anyway. Der Natter’s been away the past few days, and so has his main girl—Dana.”
Her name feels odd in his mouth. He’s called her Scully in his head since she insisted he did.
“Tell me about her,” Skinner says. Mulder’s breath catches in his throat. What can he tell, what can he reveal without giving away his own feelings? Worse, what does he know? She’s a woman with fiery red hair who sings at a club, and that’s really all he knows about her.
“She’s not German,” he says. A pause. “She has red hair.”
“The Army certainly recruited you for your observation, didn’t they?” Skinner says. “Mulder. Find out more. If she’s Der Natter’s favorite, there must be a reason. He has to be using her for something.”
Judging by the way his hand is more often than not on Scully’s body, Der Natter is definitely using her.
But he can’t joke about that, can’t say that to Skinner, because again, what business is it of his what the man does with the women of his club?
“I’ll find out,” he says. It takes Skinner a few minutes to reply.
He already knows what he’s going to say.
“Don’t get attached to her.”
He wanders the streets, watching, stopping at a Verkaufstand for a newspaper and Schrippe, a small bread roll.
Maybe he should find real food, he thinks as his stomach growls; he’s been subsisting on potatoes and beer since he arrived. Already he can feel himself growing soft.
He clutches the newspaper in his fist, wondering fleetingly if he can ask Scully to read it to him, explain the German so he understands.
God, what he really should do is write. Write something, so no one gets suspicious. Write about Scully, write about the club, write to save his own skin. It’s been almost a week and the typewriter sits in the corner of his room, untouched.
But every time he sits at it, the words won’t come.
He returns to the club at nightfall, his belly full, his head clearer, newspaper and a bag of fruit tucked under his arm. He suspects he overpaid for both, but right now, he doesn’t care.
There’s a line out the door of the club, and his heart starts beating faster and faster, because he knows that can only mean one thing.
He has to fight his way in through the crowd of men, but as soon as he’s in the club proper the dark-haired woman seizes him by the arm, the same woman whose set preceded Dana’s a few nights before.
“Come on,” she says, and for a second he thinks she’s propositioning him, whisking him backstage for something quick, and he’s about to pull away when she shoves him in a chair away from the others but with a good view of the stage.
“She wants to be sure she can see you,” the woman says in English, her voice lightly accented. “Stay here.”
“Stay,” she hisses, her dark eyes meeting his. “You don’t want to get on Der Natter’s bad side.”
“What have I done to get on his bad side?” Mulder asks, but he’s afraid he already knows the answer.
“Just make sure he doesn’t catch you looking at her,” the woman says, and hurries away before he can even ask her name.
The lights dim, and the spotlights lights up the middle of the stage, and he holds his breath along with the rest of the audience, waiting.
And she comes out. And she is beautiful, and pale, and her hair is even more red under the light—
But he’s close enough to see the bruise on her collarbone, carefully covered with make-up, only a shadow to any man sitting further away than Mulder is, any man who doesn’t know any better.
Anger flares in his gut. He can’t help it. Scully isn’t his, not by a long shot, but he’s never had a tolerance for anyone who beats up on women.
A memory then, suddenly, of a boy Samantha went steady with before she left, her excuses to why she wouldn’t let anyone even hug her anymore, the satisfying thunk of Mulder’s fist against the man’s head—
Scully moves slowly as she begins to strip, more so than normal, and Mulder can’t help but wonder if it’s part of her routine or if she’s in pain, what else she’s hiding. Her eyes catch his during the chorus as she straddles a chair, and he swallows, careful not to let his expressions betray him.
Oh, but she is beautiful.
But his eyes aren’t the only pair on her. From his vantage point he can see Der Natter waiting in the wings, and Mulder quickly looks away. Best to play the dumb American as long as he can. Best to pretend like he knows nothing, feels nothing.
He’s never been a good liar.
When the show is over he knows it is in his best interests to slip away quickly, quietly, back up the stairs to his room. He does as the applause still fills the space, hoping not to be stopped by Krycek or the woman on his way out.
He shuts himself in his room, the typewriter still glaring at him, daring him to sit down and put his thoughts on paper. Daring him to write something, make the accusations in his head real.
But what does he even have to say? Der Natter is up to something? He knows that. That he’s hitting his girls and fucking them on the side? Mulder suspects that, too.
But words have power, and he’s not about to give it to them by writing things down.
He could begin a story, but even that feels trite.
God, he needs a smoke.
He fishes a cigarette out of his pocket, lights it, and leans out the window. Dana is not in the alley tonight; just the dark, just light playing off shadows and making him see things. And light playing off shadows makes him think of the bruise on her collarbone, and that anger rushes through him again, hot and unfamiliar.
He takes another drag.
There’s a knock at his door, and he slowly stubs his cigarette out, not wishing for the company. Perhaps it’s Krycek, come to spy; perhaps it’s Der Natter demanding to see what Mulder has written about his club so far.
The knock sounds again.
“Coming,” he calls, in English because he’s feeling spiteful, and heads towards the door.
He opens it, and—
There she is, in front of him, her smile tight, her eyes inviting questions he doesn’t have.
Scully brings Mulder inspiration; Mulder teaches Krycek English; Der Natter makes a deal.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
For a minute, he can’t believe it. Scully stands in front of him, in a thick coat and that red dress with that red hair curled so it sets off her pale face, and from this close he can smell her perfume, an intoxicating musky smell he can’t place.
“Mulder,” she says, and she pushes past him. “Shut the door.” There’s no room in her tone for arguing.
He wants to ask what she’s doing here. Why she’s with him, of all people. But then she goes over to the window and shuts it, sealing them off. He watches, dumbfounded, as she takes a blanket off his bed and hangs it over the window.
“That’s not suspicious,” he says weakly. It’s the only thing he can think to say.
“Mm,” she responds. She eyes the typewriter, the blank paper inside. “How’s writing?”
“What are you doing here?”
“What are you?” she counters. She stalks back over to him, her hand sweeping to indicate the desk. “Because it clearly isn’t writing.”
“I just—just haven’t found anything inspiring yet,” he says lamely.
“That excuse isn’t going to work with Der Natter,” she says.
“Then you don’t have to tell him. Why are you here?”
She ignores his question again. Instead, she slips her heels and coat off, walks up to him. Up close she is even smaller, more fragile than he initially thought. The red dress barely conceals her, and he can see more dark marks that she’s tried to hide under makeup.
“Did he send you here?” he asks, but again she doesn’t respond. She brushes up against him, presses her chest to him, and his mouth goes dry.
“I’m here to give you some inspiration,” she says, and then her mouth is on his and her hands are tugging at his hair, hot, insistent. He can taste the beer on her when she kisses him, and some other alcohol, a familiar scotch that tugs at his memories.
“Is that inspiring?” she whispers as she breaks apart from him, and he swallows, truly speechless now.
“I saw you watching me,” she says, pushing him back on the bed. She quickly straddles him, trailing her hands down his chest. “I could feel you.”
How many times in the past week has he fantasized about this? About her on him? But this is too soon, it’s happening too soon and it’s wrong, something is wrong with her.
“Don’t call me that,” she says, and then her mouth is on his again. Her hand drifts to his belt, unbuckling it quicker than he can think. “Ready to go, aren’t you?” she murmurs, palming him. She tugs at his pants, her nails scraping along his hip, and it’s this that brings him back to his senses.
“No,” he says, and scrambles back on the bed, pushing her off, gentler than he thinks he can be. “Jesus Christ, Dana.”
He stands and turns, awkwardly rearranging his clothing, his belt. He keeps his back to her as long as possible in the hope that when he turns around, she’ll be gone.
But she isn’t. He finally wills himself to turn and there she is still, staring at him with that intense blue-eyed gaze.
She’s drunk, he thinks, and he almost hopes it’s true. But the sharpness with which she looks at him is entirely sober.
“Are you a homosexual?” she asks, and the question is so direct, so unexpected, that he bursts into laughter. It takes him a minute to come back down.
“Am I what?”
This time she turns from him, barely disguising the fact she’s pouting. “You must be, most men want to sleep with me immediately.”
“It’s—it’s not that,” he says.
“You’ve been spending more and more time with Krycek,” she says accusingly, and he wants to laugh again, because Krycek is an obligation, nothing more, and if he looks at Mulder a little too long so what?
“How would you know?” he asks. “I’ve met you twice. You’re barely even here. I’m not going to be lectured on my choices by a showgirl.”
She stands. Her hands ball into fists, and she walks up to him, barely clearing his chest.
“I’m not a showgirl, Fox Mulder,” she hisses. “I’m doing what I have to to survive, do you understand that? You should. Do you know what they do to homosexuals here? Even if half the club is full of them?” She pokes him in the chest, not even hard enough to make him stumble.
“I don’t know what you want from me,” he says. And he doesn’t. There is something intriguing about her, something dark swirling beneath the surface, a mystery he wants to untangle. But he doesn’t know what to do with it, with her. If he should do anything at all.
She isn’t the mission. She is a means to an end, and he’d do well to remind himself of that.
“Because obviously I have to want something,” she says softly, and he looks down. Up close, the bruise on her collarbone is even more distinct.
Without stopping himself he reaches up, traces it. She steps back.
“I’m not, you know— a homosexual,” he says. He wonders why now, why those words have tumbled out of his mouth, but he knows it’s because he wants to tell her—you still have a chance, I still want you, just not now.
“I know,” she says. Her eyes flick back up to meet his.
“And the wanting—not that you have to want something, just—girls don’t show up in the middle of the night and throw themselves at me. That doesn’t happen to me.” He attempts at a joke but sees the frown lines on her face.
“Now I’m a girl?”
“Women, then,” he amends, and looking at her he knows she isn’t as young as she appears onstage. “So you must—want something.” He steps back from her. “Why are you here?” he asks again.
“In Berlin? In the club? What’s a nice English girl doing in a place like this?” She laughs.
“Why are you in my room?”
“I told you. For inspiration,” she says, and then she’s gathering her shoes, her coat, suddenly, shockingly sober. She’s almost to the door when she turns back to him.
“Someday,” she says. “Someday, Fox Mulder, I’ll tell you what a nice English girl is doing in Berlin.” She fixes him with a crooked grin. “You’ll like it. It’s a good story.”
He avoids the club the next day. The guilt of even seeing her is written all over his face, so he does what he does best and avoids the problem. Krycek knocks on his door around 4 in the afternoon, and for a second Mulder worries that he’s been found out—though for what, he doesn’t know, since he clearly rejected Scully’s advances.
But then he remembers: it’s Monday. English lessons.
He opens the door for the other man and leads him in, too aware of how much space his bed takes up. He’s taken down the sheet from the window and put it back on the bed, and the expanse of it just makes it look massive.
He didn’t sleep last night, but at least the room looks slept-in.
He sits on his chair and faces Krycek, who perches himself on the bed since there isn’t another chair in the room. He’s brought with him a small phrasebook of English, and Mulder wonders where he picked it up.
“Okay,” Mulder says. He grabs a piece of paper from his typewriter and a pencil, awkwardly slides the desk over to Krycek, the sound of it on the floor making him wince. “Today’s words; food. So. Here’s how we say we want to order something.”
He looks up from his paper. The other man nods and Mulder continues writing.
“I’d like to have... and then whatever. Verstehen?” he asks. They resort to German when Krycek looks confused, because Mulder’s Russian is worse than his German.
“I like to have...”
“I’d. Or I would, maybe that’s easier. I would like to have.”
Krycek nods. “I would like to have.”
The sounds of English in his mouth are thick and rounded, and Mulder finds himself thinking again of Scully, of the clipped vowels of her own accent.
“What doing?” Krycek asks, and Mulder looks at him, startled. The man never speaks during their lessons unless it’s to sound out the words, or occasionally ask about pronunciation. He frowns, clearly not getting his meaning across. “Was machst du hier?”
“Lehren,” Mulder says. “Teaching.” He pretends not to notice Krycek’s use of the informal “you” with him, chalking it up to the man’s inexperience with German.
But then again, he himself is inexperienced, and he knows that much. He is always very careful which form of address he uses with Der Natter.
But Krycek shakes his head. “That is not all.”
“Writing.” He sweeps his hand to indicate the typewriter. But Krycek shakes his head again.
Mulder’s cheeks color. “I’m not doing anything with Dana.”
Fuck, is she working for Der Natter? Or does the man just have spies everywhere.
Mulder suspects Krycek is probably one of them, though maybe that’s just his distrust of Russians coming through. Still, the man is close to Der Natter, or at least seems to have some sort of working relationship with him.
“Dana...” Krycek’s tongue runs over his lips like they’ve suddenly gone dry. “Dana and Der Natter...”
“What do you know?” Mulder asks, and shit, he’s given himself away, shown way too much interest, not only in Dana but in Der Natter himself.
“What do you?” Krycek counters. His voice is more confident now. “Was machst du hier?”
“Schreiben,” Mulder tries again. Writing. Yet he knows it’s not going to be the accepted answer.
Krycek sighs. “Der Natter wants... tonight. Meet. Yes?”
“He say he have job.”
A job. Of course. Mulder knew this room wasn’t going to come free, even with the reduced twenty-five marks he’s paying to Frau Schmidt. “He needs English. Not job for me,” Krycek says, and attempts something that almost looks like a smile.
“I don’t know,” Mulder replies. But the look on Krycek’s face tells him he can’t refuse.
He doesn’t have to wait long after the show for Der Natter to appear. The man follows him out of the club, Mulder’s turn to wait for him in the alley with a cigarette.
“How are you liking Berlin, my friend?” the man asks. “Surely you’ve found something to write about by now.” The clap he gives him on the shoulder is a little too forceful.
“It’s beautiful,” Mulder says flatly. He doesn’t feel like pleasantries tonight.
“It would be more beautiful, perhaps, with some company?” Der Natter says. “Surely any one of my girls would please you. Or even my boys, perhaps…”
Mulder’s face grows hot. “That’s not what I’m here for,” he says.
“Isn’t it, Herr Mulder?”
Mulder swallows. He’s never been the best liar. “I’m just here to write.”
Der Natter nods and takes a drag off his cigarette. “I did mention I would have a job for you. If you’re interested in more than writing.”
“I’m... yes,” Mulder swallows. This is his chance to find out what Der Natter is up to, what Skinner wanted him to do.
“I need you to deliver some documents for me,” he said. “Possibly translate them.”
“I don’t speak German.”
“Which is why Dana will help you. She can translate and you can make the words... sing.”
Mulder swallows. Does he know? Surely he can’t, but Mulder fears by now that the man knows everything about him by this point, has known about him for years.
“When do you want me to start?” he asks, and Der Natter claps him on the shoulder again.
“I knew you’d agree, Herr Mulder,” he says. “Tonight, if you’re able. I need you to deliver a package to an old friend of mine. And then the translation. You’ll be working directly with Dana on that, say once a week? It should be good practice for you, improve your German. Plus, you finally get to dust off that typewriter of yours.”
How does he know Mulder hasn’t dusted off the typewriter? Though perhaps this is just a guess, a way to play with his head.
If it is, it’s working.
“What’s the package?”
“Nothing you need to concern yourself with,” the man says smoothly. “I will have one of my girls drop it by your place tonight before the show, while Frau Schmidt is out at her dinner. Deliver it to the address on the package, and perhaps I will even pay you—or convince Frau Schmidt to cook you dinner sometime.”
“That’s very gracious of you,” Mulder says.
“I know,” the man gleams. “ I can be gracious, when I like. Now. Go write something. Go find some inspiration.” He laughs and claps Mulder on the back before turning his back to him.
Mulder waits until Der Natter has gone back in the club before daring to exhale. He knows they aren’t, but it feels like all of them watching him. Krycek, Der Natter, Scully... all of them.
Whatever he thought he was doing here, he suddenly realizes he has no idea.
Thank you all for reading! Kudos and comments are greatly appreciated as always!
Chapter 5: Chapter 5
True to Der Natter’s word, someone comes and drops off a package at Mulder’s door that evening, three quick knocks alerting him. When he opens the door he half expects Scully, or even the dark-haired woman whose name he still doesn’t know.
But it’s neither of them. It’s a girl Mulder doesn’t know, one who doesn’t even work at the club. When she looks at him her eyes are just like Der Natter’s. She can’t be more than twelve.
Why is she involved in this? Or maybe she isn’t involved, maybe she’s just the messenger. Who’s going to suspect a little girl of being involved in anything?
Hell, what is she involved in? What is he?
He pities her. Just because of who her father is.
“Ich… ich habe nichts für dich,” he says apologetically, and she shrugs. I have nothing for you.
“Don’t mess up,” she says, and is gone before he can say anything else to her.
Mulder clutches the package tight to his chest and waits until the little girl is gone before fully shutting the door. He glances down at the address on it—Kurfürstendamm. The ritzier part of Berlin, only a twenty minute walk from where he is now.
He almost feels guilty for getting paid for this.
He shakes the package but can’t tell what’s in it, and knows it’s futile—besides, whoever he’s delivering it to must be rich, and probably powerful, and if they find out he’s tampered with the package, well…
He pulls his coat on, shuts the door tight behind him. The air is getting colder as August makes its way to September, and he swears. He’ll have to buy a heavier coat, he didn’t plan on being here this long.
He wonders why he didn’t plan on being here this long.
With the package tucked under his arm, he descends the back stairs of the apartment building, the ones that lead to the alley of the club. It’s late enough none of them will see him, pay attention to him, though he can’t help but wondering if he’ll run into Scully in the alley.
He doesn’t, and he’s almost—almost—disappointed. Only once he reaches the main drag of Friedrichstraße does he let himself relax, at least a little. No one is following him, he’s sure of it.
And Berlin at night is something else. He’s forgotten, lately, that there’s a world outside the club. Berlin itself is alive, bustling with people, with cars, with shouts and music pouring out of windows. There is no hint at the past, at the destruction from only a few years before. All around him the city is alive with smoke and memories and cries and dreams. He passes a woman on the street who gives him a once-over and he smiles, nodding at her. She jerks her head to an alley and he shakes his, apologetically.
He‘d indulged, once. The last time he and Skinner had been stationed in France, both of them drunk, a rare night of not thinking about the war. They’d gone walking around alleys and when Mulder woke up the next morning he was in bed with a woman on one side of him and Skinner on the other.
They’d never talked about it.
There were a lot of things they had never talked about.
He finds the address in Kurfürstendamm, and pulls his coat tighter around his body. He needs a cigarette to stop his hands from shaking, but doesn’t want to light up, not yet.
He knocks on the door. Waits, two minutes, three, and just when he’s about to step away the door opens.
Mulder’s first instinct is to flinch, to run. The man in front of him is in full SA uniform, a telltale red band on his arm. He’s seen them around, the Sturmabteilung. But never this close, and Mulder’s heart beats so loudly in his chest he’s sure this man can hear it.
“Wer sind Sie?” The man asks, and Mulder feels his mouth go dry. The man’s gaze flits to the package Mulder is holding. “Was sit das?”
“Eine Packung,” said Mulder. A package. “Von… von Der Natter.”
He knows his accent gives him away. But the man takes the package and nods, tips his hat to Mulder, “Danke,” and shuts the door.
Mulder lets out his breath. Right now he is grateful he doesn’t fit in here, grateful for his accent which surely makes him just seem like another dumb American, because he feels exposed and naked under that man’s gaze.
He draws a cigarette as he makes his way back down Kurfürstendamm, briefly considers finding that woman again, if only for the company.
But no. Better to be alone tonight.
He heads up the creaky back stairs. He can’t face Der Natter tonight, not with the man delivering packages to a man like that. A Nazi.
Mulder knows—has always known—that Der Natter is not a good man. But he had no idea—
What sort of information is he passing along, what sort of secrets?
What is Skinner hoping he finds here? And how is Scully involved? Mulder hopes she isn’t, but considering how close she is to Der Natter, she has to be. She’s not stupid.
He makes it back to his flat around midnight, exhaustion settling deep in his chest. He looks at the typewriter on his desk, the one he’s barely touched since arriving, but the thought of even sitting down at it makes his bones weary. He goes to his suitcase and pulls out a bag of bourbon, one he smuggled on the ship over here, has been saving for… for what? A special occasion?
He unscrews the cap and takes a long swig of it.
There are noises coming from the alley below. And he knows tonight he doesn’t want to get involved in Der Natter’s business, but curiosity gets the better of him, and he goes to the window and cranes his head so he can see and not be seen.
A flash of red, the top of Dana’s head, a familiar hand pushing her to her knees—he pulls back before he has a chance to see anything else.
Jealousy stirs in him, and he’s surprised at how strong it is. He barely knows Dana, has barely spoken to her except for that night. He has no claim to her.
He hates himself then for even thinking it. Claim, like she’s property and not a woman.
But she is Der Natter’s property, as much as Mulder doesn’t want to think about that. Besides, her coming to his room that one time—that was just a job, and he’d do well to remember that.
But the way she looked at him…
Mulder sighs and goes back to his typewriter, hoping to write away the memories of the man’s red band, Dana’s red hair—
He doesn’t write a word.
Mulder has two visitors, only one of whom is wanted.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
When he wakes, all he sees before he opens his eyes is red. Scully’s red hair, the man’s red armband, the red of the backs of his own eyelids as the sun hits him.
Red like blood on a battlefield—
But no, he can’t think that, cannot let himself go into those memories because if he does he will never be able to pull himself back out.
He makes himself sit up, grabs a drink of the water that’s been sitting by his bedside for a few days now, grimacing at the taste. Contemplates going back to sleep when there’s a knock at his door. Mulder pushes himself out of bed, hastily throws on last night’s pants and shirt. Goes to open the door and is surprised to see Der Natter standing in front of him. He looks no less intimidating outside of the club, his suit sharp and impeccable, that ever-present stench of cigarette smoke following him around.
Mulder swallows. In all the time he’s been in Berlin, Der Natter has never come to his apartment. He instantly feels on edge, guarded.
“Herr Mulder,” Der Natter says, and Mulder immediately steps aside to let the man in, even though he hasn’t asked.
Der Natter makes Mulder’s already small apartment feel even smaller, claustrophobic. Mulder’s gaze flits to the window, hoping the man doesn’t notice that it looks out onto the back alley of his club.
“Der Natter. What can I do for you?” Mulder asks, aware as the words leave his mouth that he doesn’t even know the man’s real name. Der Natter smiles, all teeth.
“I just wanted to congratulate you on a successful delivery last night. My colleague phoned me and said you were efficient and courteous. If you keep this up I will have another job for you soon,” Der Natter says.
Mulder swallows. He knows he should be grateful. Knows he should even express that gratitude. But the man’s red armband from the night before flashes through his mind again.
“N... natürlich,” Mulder says. “It would be my pleasure.”
Der Natter reaches around and claps Mulder on the shoulder. “Very good. Dana will be up later today with a document she will help you translate. Just have her back to me no later than 19:00 for her show.”
Have her back to me. As if Scully is a piece of property Mulder is borrowing for a few hours, Der Natter her owner—though he supposes this isn’t so far from the truth.
“Of course,” Mulder says.
Der Natter turns to leave, then stops, fixing his gaze on Mulder. “Will you attend the performance tonight?”
“I hadn’t thought about it,” Mulder answers truthfully. Der Natter nods.
“Come. As my guest.”
“Thank you,” Mulder says, and as Der Natter leaves, he can’t help but wonder if accepting the invitation was stepping ever closer into the viper’s nest.
He showers in the shared bathroom down the hall, careful not to be too loud and disturb Frau Schmidt. As he’s leaving the bathroom the door across from him opens, and the dark-haired woman he’s spoken to a few times steps out into the hall, a man trailing behind her.
He ducks his head and heads back down to his own room, but her voice calls after him.
He turns, realizing he doesn’t know her name, either. She steps to him, signaling to the other man to wait at her door, which he does.
Mulder wonders if the other man is a boyfriend. But he’s dressed in a uniform, and Mulder knows he isn’t—he’s a client. Not one of the men from downstairs.
He wonders, too, if Der Natter knows about what this woman is doing. But perhaps it doesn’t matter. She’s not Scully. She doesn’t seem to be owned. She can do what she likes.
“I didn’t know you lived here,” he stammers out, and she smiles.
“We’ve been hallmates this whole time,” she says. “It’s Monika, by the way.”
He shakes her hand. Her grip is firm.
“Look,” she begins, then sighs. Stops. “If Frau Schmidt asks if any men have been by my room, can you lie and say no? I’m not supposed to have... visitors up here.”
Relief courses through his veins, and he doesn’t quite know why. “Yes,” he says, and her face breaks into one of the few genuine smiles he’s seen since arriving in Berlin.
“Danke schön,” she says, and kisses him on the cheek before heading back to her waiting sailor.
He fills a glass of water from the tap in the sink in his room and drinks it all down in one gulp before sitting down at his typewriter.
There was a man, and there was a woman, and a club at the end of the world—
No, but that’s far too childish and purple. He rips the piece of paper out of the typewriter and crumples it in his fist.
And then the knock on the door. Scully.
He hasn't seen her in a few days. Not in person, nothing that hasn't been glimpses from the alley.
When he opens the door she is standing there, looking smaller than normal. He thinks, impossibly, that she’s lost weight. Looks for a mark of her with Der Natter last night, though he knows he won’t find one. That kind of work doesn’t always leave scars.
“Come in,” he says, and she wordlessly passes by him. He reaches for her shoulder, lightly brushes it, and she visibly flinches, so different from the confident woman who strode in just a few days ago and threw herself at him. How was that only two days ago?
“You okay?” he asks.
“Fine,” she says brusquely, and sits herself down on his bed. It's only then he notices she's carrying a briefcase. “Let’s just finish these.”
She pulls the stacks of papers out of her bag and sets them on her lap, pulling a pair of reading glasses out as well. He likes how they look on her. She suddenly looks like a scholar, a scientist, a woman so far removed from the world they both currently inhabit.
She glances up at him. “You may want to sit at the typewriter.”
He stares at her blankly. “Why?”
She sighs. “So I can dictate these and you can type them?”
“Oh,” he says. “Oh. Okay.”
He reluctantly sits himself down. His back is to her but he’s still aware of her presence, can hear the bed move as she shifts.
She begins reading and he’s only half paying attention to the words, his fingers mindlessly moving over the keys. It’s only when her voice trails off that he stops.
“Are we finished?” He asks, glancing at his watch—only twenty minutes have passed.
She doesn’t seem to hear him. She’s staring out the window, her face in profile, angular and sharp.
It’s then he realizes she’s crying.
“Scully?” He asks tentatively, and pushes himself up. He doesn’t dare sit next to her, doesn’t want to disturb her. She laughs softly, bitterly.
“Are you all right?”
“No,” she says, and she looks at him. “Are you?”
“Why... why wouldn’t I be?” He asks.
“No, no of course not,” she says. She sighs. “Don’t mind me. It was just... a long night.”
“Do you want to talk about it?” This time he does settle himself on the edge of the bed, his knee near hers, almost touching but not.
She shakes her head. “You’re the first man to ask me that. Maybe you are a homosexual.”
He laughs, too. “I’m not. Not—not fully.”
She doesn’t seem surprised at these words. “I figured as much,” she says. Then, to his surprise, she places her hand over his, leans her head against his shoulder.
“Sometimes I wish I could just fly away from here,” she whispers, so low at first he doesn’t think he’s heard her.
“You can come with me,” he says, surprising himself. “When... when I go back to America. If you want.”
“I appreciate the offer,” she says. “But you and I both know that won’t happen.”
He doesn’t agree with her, and he doesn’t say so. She sighs and kicks her shoes off, straightening herself back up from him.
“We should keep going. Der Natter wants these papers by tonight,” she says.
“What are they?” Mulder asks. Scully shrugs.
“He doesn’t tell me. And parts of them are censored, anyways.” She smiles. “But it’s nice—to get out of the club for awhile.”
He nods. “And you’re performing tonight?”
It was the wrong thing to say, and he knows it immediately. But instead of reacting with anger like she did before, to his surprise, Scully shrinks away from him, seeming to grow even smaller.
“I—I got invited,” Mulder says, just to prove to Scully the reason he’s asking isn’t to do with her. Because it can’t be. She can’t be. “Der Natter—he said I’m there as his guest.”
Something in her face changes, then, and the hard stare she gives him is more what he’s come to expect from her.
“You need to be careful with him, Mulder,” she says. “He’s more dangerous than he seems.”
“He seems dangerous already,” Mulder says, trying for humor and failing. But she laughs, if only slightly. “So I guess it’s too late for me.”
“But you’re a fox,” she says. “You’re clever. You’ll find a way out.”
“And you?” he asks. “Will you?”
She doesn’t answer him. Instead, she tilts her face up to his and kisses him, softer this time, her palms pressing against his chest like she can’t decide whether to keep kissing him or push him away. He circles one of his hands around her waist, pulling her to him, making the decision himself—but lightly, so she can stop him if she wants to.
She doesn’t. The way she kisses him now is so different from the other night. It’s less urgent but no less desperate, no less wanting. She kisses him, and he kisses her, and he keeps kissing her despite the fact that he knows—he cannot be her way out.
No matter how much he wants to be.
Thank you all so much for following along with this fic and the comments on the last chapter!
He does not sleep with her. Not that night. She lies beside him on his narrow bed, her small frame curled into his, never fully relaxed. Even when she drifts off to sleep there is a frown line between her eyes that he smooths his thumb over.
He kisses her again when she wakes around 18:00 and she looks up at him sleepily.
“Sleep well?” he asks, and she smiles.
“Well enough. I don’t get to, often, so… thank you.”
He nods, watches as she sits up and turns from him, notices the ridge of her spine, sharp, her body almost too thin. A bruise under her shoulder blade, mottled and green, at least a week old.
She turns and catches his eye.
“I would tell you not to ask, but you’re going to, aren’t you?” she says quietly.
“Only because I care about you,” he says, and as soon as the words leave his mouth he knows they’re true.
She turns sharply then, faces him. “Do you?”
“Yes,” he says.
She shakes her head, stands up. “Because of Der Natter.”
“What exactly...” Mulder’s voice trails off, he can’t bring himself to finish the sentence.
“What exactly is my relationship with him?” She asks, then laughs, narrowing her eyes at him. “What’s yours with Krycek?”
“Nothing,” Mulder says. “I—hell, I know he’s spying on me, but I’m not... I haven’t—I won’t sleep with him or anything.”
Scully nods, like she expected as much. “Be careful with him, Mulder. He’s got Der Natter’s ear, I imagine anything you say to him goes straight back.”
“You think I don’t know that?” Mulder says, then sighs. Without thinking he reaches out, caresses down her back. She stiffens, but she doesn’t move.
“Did he do this?” he asks.
“Mulder...” she sighs. He runs his hands down her back, comforting. Waiting. “You already know that answer,” she says quietly, and his heart sinks just a little more. “He owns me, he can do what he likes.”
She turns, fixes that icy gaze on him. “I have a contract with him. I perform in his club, I bring in his patrons, I... service them when I’m asked, service him when I’m not.” He watches the tense lines of her body. “And if I do that, he doesn’t turn me in to the SS for being here without papers.”
He thinks back to their conversation the other night, when he first met her, when she first found him shaking in that alley.
Your German is very good.
It has to be.
“Why don’t you... why don’t you just leave?” He asks, and Scully laughs.
“Where would I go? I have no skills, I have no money—anything I earn goes back to the club—I have no papers, no passport. I certainly can’t go back to England. There’s nothing left for me there.”
“There’s nothing for you here, either,” Mulder says, and Scully turns to face him.
“There is now,” she says quietly. She leans her head on his shoulder.
“I promised you a story, once,” she says. “Of how a nice English girl ended up in a club like this.”
“You don’t have to tell it,” he says. “Not now.”
“We might not get another night for me to tell it,” she says.
“We will,” he says, and runs his thumb over her knuckles. “I’ll make sure of it.”
He feels her body sag as she sighs. “Fox Mulder,” she says, “if I didn’t know any better I would think you were a little in love with me.”
He chuckles, but he doesn’t answer her. He knows he is not in love with her, not fully—
Dana leaves around 18:30, well before she is supposed to be back to Der Natter. The translated documents are under her arm, and his cheek is warm from where she kissed him, her words still lingering in the air.
If I didn’t know any better I would think you were a little in love with me.
Mulder wonders what she’ll do with her few minutes of freedom. He hopes she’ll do something for herself.
He wishes he could take her away from here, for both of their sakes. And maybe he is a little in love with her, but then again, who wouldn't be?
He makes the club in good time. Der Natter is sitting closest to the stage and when he sees Mulder, he beckons him over. Mulder finds himself wedged between Krycek and Der Natter.
The dark haired woman, Monika, is up first. She throws Mulder a wink, which makes him smile. Monika, it seems, can do what she likes, which is flirt with half the men in the audience.
Scully is next. She is radiant, but Mulder sees the emptiness in her face that she’s trying hard to hide.
She stumbles in her dance, catches herself, and offers a smile to the audience that definitely doesn’t reach her face. He tries hard not to react, not to show any concern, because Der Natter is on one side of him and Krycek is on the other. He thinks he’s concealed his emotions, he thinks he’s done well, but—
Out of the corner of his eye he sees Der Natter staring at him, and he fears he’s given himself away.
Mulder wrenches his attention back to Scully, trying not to act like he’s still aware of every movement of her body. She finishes her act and saunters offstage to thunderous, if slightly confused, applause.
Mulder can feel his heart beating fast in his chest, suddenly too aware of Der Natter and Krycek next to him.
He needs to get out of here or he’s going to panic, he’s going to give everything away.
But what is he giving away, really? He hasn’t done anything wrong.
His body twitches in his seat, and he moves to stand, but Krycek and Der Natter do, as well.
“Pause,” Der Natter says, and for a moment Mulder wonders if he’s telling him to halt, before he dimly remembers that it’s the word for a break, an intermission.
He can’t stay here.
“I’m afraid, gentlemen,” he says, “I’m not feeling well. I think I’m going to have to cut the show short tonight.”
He makes himself look at both of them, nod, and then turn.
When he leaves, he does not look back.
Late at night as he’s lying in bed trying to sleep, trying not to think about Dana, he hears a commotion.
He forces himself out of bed and looks, and this time in the alley it’s Frau Schmidt, Der Natter towering over her small form.
“Don’t,” she’s saying to Der Natter, “don’t tell them, please, my husband—my husband is a good man.”
“Your husband should join the Party, if he is such a good man.”
“Madame. I have been generous with you because your husband owns the building over my club. But I will not take no for an answer.” He leans in and Mulder finds himself straining to hear, but he catches the word Kommunist.
He knows that much.
“Heil Hitler,” Der Natter says and Mulder does not hear if Frau Schmidt says it back.
Mulder hides out in his apartment for three days, only leaving occasionally to get food, once, to call Skinner. He tells Monika to say that he is ill so he will not have visitors.
But on the third day there’s a knock at his door, and Mulder’s stomach sinks, because he knows it’s going to be Der Natter.
Sure enough, when he opens the door, it is.
“We have a new owner of this building. I am going to have to raise your rent my friend. Seventy-five marks,” the man says.
“We could use your help. In the club. Write some new routines for the show. When you feel better, natürlich.”
“I don’t—I’m not that kind of writer.”
“You will have to be, mein Freund, says Der Natter. “Wenn Sie überleben wollen.”
He knows Mulder doesn’t understand him, but one look on Der Natter’s face tells him all he needs to know.
Monika finishes her drink and wipes her mouth with her hand, standing to look at Mulder. She’s as tall as he is.
“You can’t save all of us, you know,” she says. “Aber trotzdem viel Glück.”
She leaves before he can ask what she means, though he has a feeling he already knows.
As soon as Der Natter leaves Mulder waits for five minutes, barely daring to breathe before he leaves the apartment. He counts the seconds until it’s safe (even though it is never safe) and then makes his way out onto the street.
Again he is struck by the never changing city, the hustle and bustle of it, so different from the club. It could almost feel like a country that has never seen war; the laughter and vivacity of it plain even as Mulder walks down the street.
But he can see the furtive glances of others similar to his own, too-quick looks over the shoulder to assure one isn’t being followed.
He tucks himself into a phone booth and calls Skinner. Surprisingly for once, the man picks up after the first ring.
“Mulder. Please tell me you have something to report, they’re breathing down my neck over here.”
“I...” Mulder begins, then falters. “Something. Not much. I’m delivering packages now.”
“They’ve upgraded you from a writer to a delivery boy.” Even without seeing his face Mulder can still hear the skepticism in Skinner’s tone.
“I’m still writing. They’re having me write material for the club.”
“You can’t rhyme.”
“Don’t I know it,” Mulder says. “They’re having me deliver documents, too. Translate them. Dana—the woman—she’s translating them. I’m just writing.”
“Anything interesting on them?”
“You think they’d let me see the interesting stuff?” Mulder asks. Skinner sighs. A long silence stretches out between them, as long as the distance between their countries.
“Mulder,” Skinner says, and Mulder can picture him with his glasses off, his hand pinching the bridge of his nose, “you need to find out what’s going on there. Find out what Der Natter is sending, find out who he’s working with, what they’re doing, and stop wasting time or they’re going to bring you home, which you and I both know you don’t want.”
“Of course,” Mulder says, and hangs up before Skinner can say anything else.
He’s right, he knows he’s right, he knows he should be doing more than he is. Find out what the man is using Scully for, using him for.
He’s a Nazi, that much is obvious, but there has to be more to it than that or else Skinner would never have sent him here.
His thoughts keep wandering back to Scully, and he realizes, with an unfortunate start, that she is the answer to this. That as much as she wants to keep her separate from his mission here, she could be useful. She’s closer to Der Natter than perhaps anyone here—with the exception of Kyreck, of course.
He does not want to try to follow Der Natter or Krycek, that’s too risky.
He doesn’t know anything about her. It’s clear she doesn’t live in the apartment complex he and Monika share or he would have seen her, but surely she can’t live too far from the club.
And wherever Scully lives, Der Natter will surely be close by—no way he’s letting her stay far.
He begins the walk back to the club, realizing now he has a slight modicum of freedom now, that if he’s writing for the club surely he’ll be allowed there during the day,
He buys wurst from a street vendor and eats it on his way back to the club, the food rich and salty in his mouth after days of existing on bread and beer. He wonders if the club serves food during the day; he’s never been around to notice.
He looks up at the building as he makes his way towards it, how nondescript and bland it looks during the day, how easy it is to walk by if you don’t know what’s inside.
He steps in, more familiar with the space now than he was his first day in Berlin, fresh and wide-eyed.
Has he changed since then? Has he learned anything, since then?
He doesn’t know.
He takes a seat at the bar, nods at some of the girls who are watching him. During the day the club loses the magic it possesses at night; during the day it’s a dingy bar, nothing more. A few men sit around, day-drinking, regulars he recognizes from the night that don’t even give him a glance.
Someone takes a seat next to him, and he doesn’t look up until he feels a light tap on his arm. Instantly he knows it isn’t Krycek or Der Natter, the touch is too light, too hesitant.
“Hello,” the voice says, and he turns and sees Monika, flashing him a grin as she signals the bartender.
“Radler, bitte,” she says, and smiles, and the bartender winks at her and she turns her full attention to Mulder.
“Lemonade and beer,” she says at Mulder’s questioning look. “Look like you’re drinking without getting totally wasted, yes?” She elbows him again. “What’re you doing here during the day?”
“What are you?” he asks before he can stop himself, and she throws back her head and laughs.
“No sailors today,” she says, smiling. “They want us to learn a new number, so I’m here to rehearse.”
“You actually do rehearse, then?”
“Barely,” she says. “Enough that the men feel like they get what they paid for. Not that many of them are paying for us nowadays.”
“Because of Dana?” Mulder says, his throat suddenly dry.
Monika laughs again. “Yes, because of Dana.” She nudges him. “You like her too, I take it.”
“It’s all right, I won’t snitch,” she says. “She came to visit you the other night, didn’t she?”
“How do you—”
“Herr Mulder,” she says, and she places a well-manicured hand on his arm. “I live across the hall. I’m not stupid.”
Mulder nods then, his heart beating in his chest, because if Monika knows then surely—surely—
“You really must be careful with her, you know,” she says, taking a sip of her drink. “I mean, she can do what she likes, as can you, but you must understand—you need to be careful.”
He thinks back to the bruises he saw on Scully’s back, the look in her eyes when he’s around, and he nods.
“Why her?” Mulder asks, and Monika looks at him quizzically. “I mean—there are plenty of girls in this club. Why is he so obsessed with her?”
“Why are you?” Monika counters, and Mulder shakes his head.
“Is it? You all want to own us, you men, whether that’s for an hour or two or a lifetime. Sexually, emotionally, whichever, it does not matter so long as you can say you have a piece of us.” She sighs. “At least the men who want to own me have to pay for it.”
“I don’t want to own her.”
“No?” Monika says. “Let me guess. You want to save her from Der Natter, because you are the better man, because you wouldn’t dare hit her like he does—it’s not a secret, Herr Mulder,” she adds off his look. “Isn’t that ownership?”
He doesn’t have a good answer. He can’t have a good answer, because deep down he suspects she is right.
Monika finishes her drink and wipes her mouth with her hand, standing to look at Mulder. She’s as tall as he is.
“You can’t save all of us, you know,” she says. “Aber trotzdem viel Glück.”
She leaves before he can ask what she means, though he has a feeling he already knows.
He stays awhile longer to watch them rehearse, trying to get a feel for the sort of material he will have to write, and leaves just as the sun is beginning to set and the regular patrons are filling back in. He hasn’t seen Scully all day, and his palms are itching for a cigarette.
He steps out into the alley and pulls out a cigarette, lighting it and inhaling, when he catches a flash of red down at the end of the alley.
It’s her. He knows it in his bones, he can feel it.
Now is his chance. Clearly she’s not expected tonight, and he won’t be missed.
He stubs the cigarette out and hurries down the alley, trying to keep a good distance from her. He was never the best at stealth, not even in the Army; Skinner always made fun of him for it. But it’s easy enough for him to get lost in this crowd, even easier to follow her, that red hair standing out like a beacon.
He follows her across streets, watches as she ducks around corners, the purposeful way she walks, head up, shoulders back, her eyes focused ahead. If she knows she’s being followed she doesn’t show it.
She crosses again and before he knows it they’re in another district of Berlin entirely, the buildings nicer, the people more well-dressed. With a start he realizes it’s the same part of town he delivered that package to, and a sick feeling starts in the pit of his stomach.
Scully disappears into an apartment building, and he watches, holding his breath, praying hers is one that faces the street, if only so he can look for a light and go inside.
A light turns on then, and he thanks whatever God is listening that he can see her silhouette clearly through the window.
He lets out a breath, steels himself, and goes inside, his footsteps on the entrance stairs.
He is so close to the door he does not see the silhouette that joins hers in the window.