It took him a few seconds to identify the voice, and then several more to believe it. "Assistant Director Kersh?" He blinked blearily at the clock on the bedside table, which thought that it was after two in the morning.
"Agent Mulder, I regret to inform you --" But the fact that he was alone was information enough. Nausea, nausea and rage and fear rose in him like a tidal wave. He was on his feet, pulling on his hastily discarded pants one-handed as he tried to think.
"Where is she?"
"Georgetown University Hospital --" Kersh was saying more, but Mulder slammed the phone down, grabbed at his T-shirt, and shoved his feet into a pair of running shoes lying by the bedroom door. He'd known, part of him had always known that they were enacting a fable. Bluebeard, Beauty and the Beast, you name it: Don't ever open that door, Agent Mulder, or you'll lose it all. Don't ever look at me at night, or I'll have to go back whence I came. Don't ever touch her that way, or she will be taken from you. He'd thought that they were safe, because she'd been taken despite all his proper behavior, and then he broke the spell in Antarctica, but he'd been mistaken when he thought they'd found a place beyond Happily Ever After, after the credits faded and they could be themselves again, life-sized and free to make their own decisions instead of playing out the script.
He should have known, he told himself as he started the car and wheeled out of his space, clipping the fender of the Saab next to him. He should never have allowed it to happen.
They were doing Kersh's ridiculous paperwork at Mulder's apartment, an indulgence Scully had only recently allowed him. He thought that the decreased intensity of the work emboldened her to spend more non-work hours with him; this way, they averaged the same amount of contact as they had on the X Files.
It was Scully's turn to wash the ice cream bowls and so he paid no attention when she returned from the kitchen and came up behind him.
"Do you want me?"
"Want you to what?" he asked, and later he would reassure himself that he had only been understandably confused by the lack of context.
Although he was looking down at the paperwork, he could still hear her. Scully sighed the way she did when he insisted that the Yeti was more than a myth. "Want to fuck me. Want me to ride you like the pony I never had," she clarified.
Turning so quickly that a muscle in his neck twanged like a snapped guitar string, he gawped at her. He was standing up now, which was good, it gave him some perspective, but she was closer now than she had been a minute ago and things were still strange -- she wasn't smiling (not that Scully would joke about a thing like that) and she wasn't looking at him with the concern that would have been appropriate if an auditory hallucination had made him jump out of his chair.
Her hands were around his neck as if by magic, fingers interlaced against the razored smoothness of his nape and pulling him down. He couldn't feel his lips against hers, shock like Novocain distorting his senses. Her tongue was a revelation, the undiscovered key to Scully. With his fingers against the fine hairs on her cheek he felt like Adam in Michelangelo's painting, brushing against God's perfection.
She danced away from him and he could only watch, as if she'd had the Midas touch and turned him into a statue. "Scully --" he shook, as confused as when he'd been burning with fever and psychoactive drugs. "Wha -- what do you want to happen?" he asked, glad that his voice was obligingly husky and not cracking as he always feared it would.
She began to move backwards, towards his strange new bedroom, her eyes still fixed on his face. "I thought I made myself clear." He moved with her even as she turned, trying to keep the distance from increasing, down the hallway and through the door where, praise God, he'd gotten rid of the leopard skin but he'd been too lazy to change anything else, given how implausible it was that anyone else would see the place. He should have known better; implausible was his middle name.
He winced as she entered his bedroom, but she didn't say anything cutting at first and he followed her in, still wondering if some hallucinatory gas had been pumped under his door. He bumped up against her as she turned back to him, and then she was giving a hand-job to his tie as she kissed him with lethal intent. He skimmed his hands over her shoulders, afraid that to prod the dream too hard would be to burst it like a soap bubble, and she groaned and released him.
He had to slow this down. Every instant would be one more reason to have lived so long and suffered so much. Every minute would be worth a year's further struggle.
"Let me --" he begged and guided her onto the bed, so that they were both sitting and she was facing away from him, despite her muted protests. He ran his hands along her arms. Without thinking about it, he rubbed up and down, from the bracelets of Venus at her delicate wrists, past the curve of her elbow to the firm muscles of her biceps and triceps, stopping at the top of her shoulders to reverse course and journey downwards again. He could feel her pulse, a butterfly fluttering within her. And up, brushing the fine hairs of her arms as he went. They tickled like angel's kisses.
After a few passes, he felt her relax more completely. Her pulse was slowing and her breathing was deep and even. She leaned back, letting him take her weight, and he brought his legs around her so that he could encompass her more fully. He put his hands on the back of her neck and began to knead, and she relaxed again. Even through her silk shell he could feel her heat, enough that he thought he might have blisters in the morning. How could she withstand all that heat? Up and down he went, in slow, gentle strokes, feeling every variation in skin and muscle and underlying bone.
Up and down, learning every inch of her back. He hadn't realized how well-muscled she was there. It was not a part of her body that she'd shown to him, at least not since their first night together. And he'd had other things on his mind then; he hadn't yet realized that Scully was a kind of fractal, perfectly detailed at each level of scrutiny, with infinite treasures waiting to be revealed. Her back was as sleek as seal's fur.
His hands moved in to her spine, tracing every vertebra, and slowly out again, skimming the edges of her shoulders, the shirt tight against his moving hands, then down the smooth curve of her waist, stopping only at the top of her hipbones.
His fingertips buzzed with the shock as he almost grazed the sides of her breasts. Unthinkingly, he moved his hands from her back to the front of her waist, laced his fingers and tugged, and she was pressed up against him. He could taste her hair, the faint citrus scent of her, and she had to be able to feel his erection.
Her head lolled against his shoulder and she ran her fingers lightly up from his knees over his thighs, just a few inches.
This can't be happening, he thought, as he ever-so-gently raised his thumbs and brushed them against the outer edges of her breasts. They were smooth, smooth as living marble, and she moaned and it wasn't enough to sate the howling need inside him. He couldn't, could never show her the extent of that need because it would frighten her. He had to maintain control at any cost.
Mulder put his hands on her breasts as his mouth came down where her neck met her shoulder. She jerked in his arms but she wasn't trying to get away, only to deal with the overload of sensation and she was just going to have to live with it because he wasn't going to let her move. Her breasts fit perfectly in his hands, hard little nipples pinched between his fingers.
He didn't want to hurt her, he would never hurt her, but it still wasn't enough. He began to roll the flesh in his hands slightly, feeling the weight and the texture of her shift as she cried out and her heels drummed on the bedspread, trying and failing to get purchase so that she could squirm against him.
He was sucking at her neck, worrying the porcelain skin there with the edges of his teeth, just enough so that she tossed her chin up and tried to get away. He pulled back immediately. She reached behind herself--he could feel her hands shake--and grabbed his hands, moving them back to her body. He could hear her gasping for breath. Stroking and squeezing her breasts, he turned his attention to her other shoulder. Her head whipped back and forth. He had no idea what she was trying to say; he doubted she did either. It didn't sound in any way negative, however, and thus it was of no importance.
He had to tear his hands away from her breasts for a second, just to get the shirt and bra off of her, and then she was back, safe and warm and perfect against his palms. He didn't want to let go again and yet he thought that there might be better to come, though he could not at the moment imagine how. Her little fists pounded against his legs, hard enough to leave her mark.
Finally he took his right hand off her breast and slid it down, over her belly and the dimple of her navel, and under the waistband of her skirt. She thrust her hips up and his fingers slid through her hair and found her clitoris. He circled the tiny flap of skin and nerves, trying to be gentle, collecting the moisture she was generating and GOD she was hot and wet and slick, electric, an electrocution, she jerked and cried his name and he slid his fingers into her so he could feel her convulsing, she was doing it because of him, she was doing it with him, and his left hand still on her breast was tightening, almost bruisingly hard as her hips rose and fell, grinding against him.
And then the tremors subsided, mostly, but he still had two fingers inside her and that was entirely the wrong configuration. But there was still the problem of her breasts, or of letting go of them to be more precise. Scully was gasping and rubbing herself against him like a kitten; she'd be no help thinking this through.
Then he had a revelation. He withdrew both hands from their wonderful locations and rolled her over so that she was on her hands and knees. Her skirt was a minor impediment, easily disposed of. Gritting his teeth, he took a moment to deal with his own clothes, somehow managed to discard them, and knelt between her legs.
She was still shuddering, but she was waiting patiently for him. He could hear her ragged breath through the fall of hair that obscured her face.
A moment's guidance, a thrust, and he was inside her. It was indescribable, lightening and thunder and torrential hot rain. He let her take all their combined weight on her elbows and forearms and returned his hands to their rightful places. Scully's face was pressed into the pillows and she made little noises every time he pulled out and louder cries each time he thrust back in. He could feel his balls slapping against the tops of her inner thighs. His pelvis slammed against her perfect ass--which he'd unforgivably neglected up to this point--each time he sheathed himself in her.
His strokes became rougher, his hands more demanding. Scully could barely move underneath him, pinned by his weight, but she did her best to set a countering rhythm with her limited range of motion. He wanted her to come again so that he could feel her around him, but he didn't think that it was going to be possible. He needed some distraction to keep him sane, and when his teeth grazed her skin and she groaned it seemed perfectly natural to take her sweat-gilded shoulder in his mouth, keeping her in place. As he bit down, she gasped and he could feel her, feel them together, and the white light flashed behind his eyes.
All he could manage was the first syllable of her name as he came and came, diving down into the light with her.
Long afterwards, Mulder realized that he was still completely on top of her, his chin hooked over her shoulder and one hand still firmly wrapped around a perfect breast. He began to move off of her, but she protested sleepily and so he pulled half of the bedspread on top of himself to stay warm and then turned her over to explore her breasts with his mouth and hands. She had a tiny mole on her right breast, matching the one she always tried to hide on her lip. He brushed his thumb over it, feeling the slight change of texture in the skin.
Before he knew it, she was squirming underneath him, awake and ready for more serious attention. He framed her face in his hands as he parted her legs with his knees, preparing to enter her. Her eyes were as grey as the sea before a storm. He gasped when he felt her hand on his cock, guiding him. He pushed into her and she sighed, her eyes slamming closed.
Scully's legs wrapped around his waist, then moved up even further, to his shoulders. She was doubled up underneath him and he still wasn't sure if he was deep enough. He hooked his chin over her shoulder and braced his hands on either side of her. Wrapped around him, she was incapable of setting up a countering rhythm, so he had to keep moving.
She was completely his, hot oil and spices and forgiving darkness around him. He wanted to be so good that she would forget all hesistation, but it was late and he was already worn out from the shock of the first encounter, and he came in one long shuddering gush before he could be sure that she'd followed along. He made a quizzical sound and moved his hand between their bodies, to see if she would ask him for something, but she only smiled a slow secret smile, half-lost in the dim light of the bedroom, and pulled him closer to her. The last thing he knew before he slipped into oceanic sleep like a torpedoed ship was her breathing underneath him, ragged and gasping.
At the hospital they would not allow him to see her. Instead, he was directed to a waiting room, where Kersh, a white-coated doctor, and a bored-looking police officer were waiting.
"What happened?" Mulder panted, one heartbeat away from cardiac arrest.
"We're ... not sure," the doctor said. "I'm Doctor Ramsey, I saw Agent Scully when she was brought in. She's been sedated so that we can ... look after her."
"What do you *think* happened?"
"Agent Scully was brought in by a squad car. She was disoriented, unresponsive to questioning, walking down the street barefoot and wearing only a man's shirt. Along with the lacerations to her feet which we think were simply caused by walking unprotected, there are --" the doctor broke off and turned to the Alexandria police officer, who was watching everyone suspiciously. Mulder couldn't tell if it was gender-based or jurisdictional; you never could tell with women working sex crimes. Dr. Ramsey addressed himself to her, ignoring Mulder and Kersh. "I feel very uncomfortable discussing this with Agent Scully's partner. There are privacy issues --"
"Agent Scully worked in Violent Crimes for five years," Kersh informed Dr. Ramsey. "There is sufficient reason to consider whether this attack might be related to one of her past cases. As such, we may have jurisdiction. She's one of ours, doctor." His voice softened on the last sentence and became darker, more intense. Mulder could finally see how he could have climbed the ranks in the Bureau -- he was very good at emoting his message.
The police officer nodded and Dr. Ramsey took that as permission to continue. "The, ah, the good news -- we were able to retrieve a semen sample, and pubic hairs from the assailant. Also, we were able to get some decent dental impressions --" Kersh winced and looked down.
Mulder felt like a cannonball had landed on him. Unless something else had happened, those were signs of his presence. Had it been so traumatic for her to finally give in that she'd gone wandering the streets in her sleep? Scully was the type to suffer buyer's remorse, he knew this for a fact.
It was suddenly, sickeningly obvious. The chip in Scully's neck had been reactivated, sending her out into the night with nothing but his shirt on her back. But had it been after? Or before?
Dr. Ramsey was at his side, easing him into an uncomfortable plastic chair, urging him to put his head between his legs and mumbling something about counselors and support groups and the particular problems of law enforcement personnel, missing the point completely. With his head at the level of his knees and his hands clutching at his shins, he could still smell the sex on himself.
He should have known that she would never -- but he no longer knew what Scully would never do these days. If she remembered she could explain. Explain that she'd had consensual sex with her partner and then fell into a fugue state because it had been so damn good, right?
He had to talk to her. Before the others did.
"I have to see her."
Dr. Ramsey and the police officer executed a polite minuet of glances, and the doctor sighed. "She's unlikely to be conscious for another few hours, at least. Sleep might be the best thing for her right now."
"I won't disturb her, I promise." He was getting very good at going from normal human being to wild-eyed lunatic at the drop of a partner. "Let me stay with her." Kersh looked at him with surprise; he supposed the AD had never known that he was capable of begging. He searched his brain for a rational argument. "If ... if there is a case-related connection, she needs someone to watch over her. Let me be there for her."
Kersh nodded fractionally. "Agent Mulder has a point. Is that acceptable to you, Doctor?" He was making it clear that the FBI was running the show, which would have been funny if Mulder hadn't known that he was the suspect they were looking for.
Kersh nattered on about generating a list of possible suspects as he walked Mulder to Scully's room. Mulder tried to nod at the least inappropriate points as his mind spun scenarios of manipulation and devastation.
The sedatives kept her out for hours. Each minute dripped like acid through Mulder's soul. He discarded ten, twenty opening statements, trying to decide how best to present the evidence to her. After the rape kit, they'd given her a sponge bath, so at least she'd be spared that horror, though it would no doubt be matched in her mind by the humiliation of having a stranger intrude on her body once again.
When she opened her eyes, they swept the room in one quick reconnaisance and then targeted Mulder, sitting in the chair pulled next to her bed. He hadn't felt that he had the right to hold her hand again, so he'd watched and waited, alone in her presence.
"The last thing I remember," she said huskily, "is paperwork at your apartment. Why don't you start from there?"
That he had expected this amnesia didn't make it any more acceptable. "Scully, you were -- you were brought in by a cop who found you walking the streets."
He couldn't bring himself to nod, which was answer enough to her.
"There's more," he choked, knowing now what it was like to write one's own death warrant. She waited, calm as a pieta, her hands folded neatly over the whitish hospital sheets. "The last thing we were doing before you left -- uh, they're going to come in here soon and they're going to ask questions. Questions based on the theory that you've been raped." He had to finish before she could decide what to say. "Because there are signs of recent sexual activity, but the thing is that it was me, Scully. It was us. So, um, you should know that now, before they start --"
"Mulder," she said. "Could you leave?"
He went to the cafeteria and bought food that chilled and warmed to room temperature while he sat. Then he went and got the Post and tore shreds off the margins while he waited. For some reason the Style section seemed particularly demonic to him that day. Officers and nurses moved in and out of Scully's room and it would have been in character for him to challenge them, to interrogate and demand to see her, but he couldn't make himself play that role anymore.
When Kersh came out, he looked older and fatter, defeated somehow. His face didn't twist with disgust when he saw Mulder, though, so that Mulder knew that Scully had protected him as best she could. "She'd like to see you now," he said and left, apparently aware that any words of solace would not be well received.
Mulder swallowed and opened the door to Scully's room, which swung open as smoothly as a guillotine blade falling down the greased slide. Five steps took him to her bedside, where she was lying on her side, facing away from the door.
"Scully, I swear, I swear I thought you were -- I thought you wanted --"
She turned, her face blank with anguish. "You thought I wanted to be brutalized? This, this is what 'I love you' means?" She gestured to the bite mark on her shoulder. "Like I was some sort of wild animal for you to catch --" her voice broke and she rolled again, twisting in the bed like a girl unwilling to look underneath it for fear of the monsters there.
"I'm sorry," he whispered into the nothingness that had replaced air. Her arms were folded over her chest in a futile gesture at self- protection.
She still wouldn't look at him when she spoke again. "How could you think --?"
Mulder felt a flare of anger shoot up. She was being blind and unfair again. Did the name Ed Jerse ring a bell? What about Jack Willis? He'd talked to people at Quantico, he knew what kind of man Willis was. But it wasn't his turn to get angry. "I had no reason to believe otherwise, Scully. As far as we know the chip is unable to control conscious behavior, it's only drawn people to go certain places. We've never seen it able to make people say specific things..."
"What are you saying?" she asked in a voice like a hail of gunfire. "Are you saying that I'm just blaming this on the chip, that really I wanted it and I'm blocking it out because now I'm feeling conflicted and ashamed?"
"I'm not -- I'm not -- I can't speculate on what happened because we just don't *know*."
He saw her rub her cheek into the pillow as if she could erase herself. "How do we know anything, Mulder? How do we know that I'm still with you of my own volition as opposed to some secret design, programmed and broadcast to me?"
"Don't you think I haven't considered that?" he rasped, and her shoulders shook as if he'd hit her. Again. "I'll tell you the truth, Scully. The last time this happened your memories were unclear around the time you received the summons, or whatever it was. I would prefer to believe we're dealing with the same thing here, maybe interference with the formation of short-term memory. If -- if we were under surveillance, it might have seemed like a good time to sow dissension in the ranks --"
"Short-term memory is only about five minutes," Scully said wearily, finally shifting to look at him again, tangled in the hospital sheets like a burial shroud. "Everything longer than that is stored differently."
"That doesn't mean the chip couldn't affect it --"
"You're right," she said, and her face was blank as newfallen snow. "The chip could do anything and we would never be certain. We'll never be certain until it's gone."
"Until it's gone?" he parroted, falling one level deeper into Hell. "You can't, Scully."
She half-smiled, the friendliest look she'd given him yet, and it went through him like an icicle. "You only get to exercise my medical power of attorney when I'm incompetent to do so."
"The chip didn't do this," he said, shivering. "It didn't make you want me. This is another trick, another manipulation."
"Even if you're right, what then? You may not be worried now, since this is only the invasion of my body we're talking about, but what happens when I lose a crucial piece of evidence or wander off during an investigation? You could always write it off as disloyalty but --"
"Stop." Strangely enough, she did. Possibly she heard the blood in his voice. "What you can't admit -- what you don't want to admit -- is that it was all real to me. Don't make me watch you die."
They stared at each other in the whiteness of the hospital room, so out of sync with the darker locations that had defined them. Like animals living far underground, they had been so long in shadow that the light brought only pain. He watched, and grieved just a little, as Scully's underlying sympathy for his weakness conquered her anger.
She stretched out her arm towards him, and he went to her, knowing that he should respect her personal space just this once but unable to resist even the shadow of her touch. He pressed his head into the softness of her barren stomach and held on to her hips as if their enemies were going to carry him bodily away from her. There was no need, really, since they'd stolen her spirit, but he grasped at her anyway, no doubt adding fresh bruises to the ones from hours ago. At least when she looked at these she'd know their provenance. The sobs that wracked him were dry and ugly. He thought she might be crying with him, but he couldn't be sure. If he looked up surely her face would burn him to a cinder.
"Mulder," she whispered as her hand weaved through his hair, "you know you wouldn't love me half as much if I could give you what you wanted."
He gasped against her in a parody of the lust they'd enacted hours before. There was a hand -- her hand -- wrapped around his heart, squeezing it as if to drain it of all blood and life for ritual slaughter. He should be able to cry, now, but he could only gasp like a beached dolphin as he felt her recede away from him like the tide. Her truth overwhelmed him; he was buried alive in it.
"Just one thing," he said into the scratchiness of the hospital gown that insulated him from her witches'-oven heat. "I have to know --"
"Yes," she said. "Always," and if there was a note of regret in her tone he decided not to hear it.
And if she wondered who it was who decided to say the words, she betrayed no uncertainty to him.