Rating: NC-17. No one admitted under 17.
Disclaimer: Oh, how I wish they were mine...but they aren't. Belong to CC, Fox and 1013.
Author's note: Picks up where "Prayer" left off.
"Mulder," I said, handing him the envelope. "This was on my doorstep."
He took the envelope from me, his face calm as his eyes avoided mine. I was standing in his living room. Tired from the plane ride earlier and my suit hanging in wrinkles. But this couldn't wait.
"Please tell me you wrote that," I said quietly.
He opened the letter, reading it silently. Mulder took a deep breath, then exhaled slowly. He stared at it for a few minutes, his face blank and expressionless.
"No," he finally said, shaking his head.
I closed my eyes. The letter's one line message was etched into my brain. Did you enjoy your tryst on the stairs? Almost like what it referred to was etched into Mulder's. Indiscretion number fifty-six on the stairwell of my mother's home.
"I asked my mom about it. Since obviously someone was watching her house. They must have known she was going out of town," I said, my voice sounding distant.
Mulder licked his bottom lip, thinking. He raised his eyes to meet mine. "Scully, this could mean nothing."
I looked past Mulder, at the shadows on the wall. In a way, it didn't even surprise me. They'd taken everything else from us. It was only a matter of time. My mind had played this scenario out a million times, trying to prepare me for this inevitable day. But it paled in comparison to real threat of being exposed.
"Someone knows," I said, finally. I grabbed the note out of Mulder's hand, not caring if it tore in two. "I wonder what took them so long."
I sat down on the couch, taking a deep breath. Random images flashed in my mind of being blackmailed, of trying to explain it to Skinner, of being separated or even dismissed. I pressed my fingertips to my eyes, trying to blot them all out. None of it had happened. Yet.
"What I don't understand," I said, anger rising inside. "Why now? Why send this to me now? What the hell does it mean? If they want to ruin us, Mulder, then why not just send it to Skinner?"
"Because, this is personal, Scully," Mulder said, lowering himself to his knees as he looked up at me. He reached for the note, sliding it out of my fingers. As if he was afraid I would tear it in little pieces.
"What do they want?" I asked, shaking my head. My voice was loud and cut the silence of his apartment.
Mulder stood up, avoiding my gaze. He walked over to his desk, reaching for a drawer. There was something about his posture, his demeanor that bothered me. He was far too calm. I narrowed my eyes suspiciously. What was he doing?
"Scully, there is something I have to tell you," Mulder said, sliding it open. His long fingers reached inside. "It's not the first..."
"What?" I said, heart pounding at those words. Not the first?
"These were addressed to me," he said, handing me two identical envelopes.
I was stunned, staring at the envelopes in his outstretched hand. Cautiously, I reached for them. Wondering what Pandora's Box I was opening. I folded one of them slowly. It was addressed to Fox. With a question was similar to mine.
"From a funeral to her bed?"
Referring to the day we attended Special Agent Remsbecker's funeral. I was trying very hard to keep my emotions down. I bit my lower lip, and opened the other.
"Was it good for you in that rental car?"
Indiscretion number fifty, in the back of Ford Contour. Together, the letters were three snapshots of our intimate lives. Taken at three different points and three different places.
How the hell could he keep this from me?
"How long, Mulder?" I demanded, looking up at him. "How long have you had these?"
"The first one came three weeks ago. The second, about twelve days ago," Mulder said slowly.
"So, you decided not to tell me," I said sharply. It wasn't the first time he'd kept things from me. But it was the first since our relationship had changed. "I trusted you, Mulder. Why?"
Mulder stood his ground. "Because I knew how you'd react."
"And how would I react, Mulder? Since you know me so well," I countered, standing up and throwing the letters at him. They fluttered like broken butterflies onto the floor.
"You'll end this," he replied, matter-of-fact. His words only angered me more. "I half-suspect that's what you are here for."
I opened my mouth to argue, but he continued speaking.
"Let me save you the trouble of saying it. It's over, Mulder. We can't take the risks anymore. It's only a matter of time before it gets back to Skinner. Our careers are on the line. Everything we've worked so hard for. You know it's for the best."
His words were spoken with increasing bitterness. As if he'd been preparing for this day as well. Because he saw it as the end. Resigned to the what he perceived as my only line of defense.
"I'm glad you think that's all it has meant to me," I said, sounding more spiteful than I wanted to. "That I could just walk away."
"I don't know what to think, Scully," he said, releasing the breath he'd been holding. Mulder shook his head. "Of course, they'd try this. They'd use you to get to me. Since I haven't reacted to these threats, they knew you would."
"You should have told me," I said accusingly.
Mulder looked down and away from me. "I'll deal with it, Scully. Don't worry, I'll make sure your professional career isn't jeopardized."
I folded my arms around myself, trying to contain my emotions. I closed my eyes and started walking to the door. "That's not what I was worried about, Mulder."
I looked back at him one last time and our eyes met. Each trying to read the other. And finding only misunderstanding.
Margaret Scully's Home
I watched as Frohike finished his sweep of my mother's house. He'd been there all day, checking everything. It was bad enough my privacy was violated, and I didn't want anyone targeting my mom.
"Do you think they removed it?" I said, staring at him as he reassembled my mom's smoke alarm.
"I don't see any evidence that anything has been tampered with," he said. "No fingerprints, no wires stripped, no holes. Nothing. Of course, it would help to know what the note said. Exactly."
I exhaled, shaking my head. I wasn't about to disclose that to him. No matter how much I trusted Frohike now.
"I know about the others," he said quietly.
I clenched my teeth. He told Frohike, but didn't tell me. How nice. "So does Langly know? And Byers too?"
He shook his head, looking a little hurt. "No. Just me. I promised you, Agent Scully. Your secret is safe with me."
"At least it's safe with someone," I breathed, sitting down on the stairs. Damn it. The stairs.
"Dana," my mother said, coming around the corner. "I know you told me to stay out of this, but is everything all right?"
"Everything checks out," Frohike said, as he gathered his tools together. "I will be back, if it is okay, with some more equipment tomorrow. You haven't received any phone calls? We might want to monitor your phone just in case."
My mother studied Frohike for a moment. God only knows what she thought of all this. Sorry mom, Mulder and I had sex on your stairs and now I think someone might know about us so I'm making sure your privacy isn't violated further by sweeping your house for surveillance.
"Do whatever you need to," she replied, looking at me.
Frohike stood there, watching my mom and I staring at each other until it got uncomfortably quiet.
"I'll be...right outside. I left something in the car," Frohike said, sensing we needed to be alone. He picked up his case and walked away quietly.
Mom sat down beside me, mimicking my posture. Elbows on knees, shoulders slouched over.
"I noticed Fox isn't here," she said. "Is that deliberate?"
"Deliberate?" I repeated, looking over at her.
"I hope you haven't let this come between you," she said, in that all-knowing mother's voice.
I shook my head, amazed at what I was hearing. "You sound just like Mulder. You think I'd let it all go because of this?"
"No," I said, anger returning. Amazing how suddenly I felt like I was twelve again, defending myself to my mother. "I never got a chance to tell him that. He accused me of the same thing. Passing judgment on me."
My mom exhaled, tapping her palms together. "You're right. It's not fair to make that assumption. You've changed, Dana. You've changed so much in the last few months."
"He had recieved two more notes," I said, my voice quiet. "And didn't tell me. I suspect he was trying to take care of it on his own."
She nodded. "He doesn't want to lose you Dana. That's all."
"You're making excuses for him," I said, not wanting her to talk me out of my emotions. I had a right to be angry with him.
"No, it's just the truth," she said, reaching over to squeeze my hand. "He was probably trying to protect you. Or protect what you have."
"I don't need his protection," I replied, anger subsiding. She laced her fingers with mine.
"But you do need him," she said, rubbing her other hand over our joined ones.
Time and space was what I needed right now. To think this clearly through.
Deer Creek State Park
In all the months we'd been together, our relationship never interfered with work. Our partnership remained intact, allowing us both to function as always. I knew no one could have figured out things had changed based on how we interacted on assignment. It was all within FBI protocol during working hours.
But today, things had changed.
It was as if something had been broken between us. The silent communication we had shared wasn't there. Tensions ran high all day as we worked on a missing persons case in Columbus. A psychic had been enlisted to help locate the lost boy. It was a hot afternoon as we trudged through the forest preserve she had indicated.
It was hard to concentrate, but I forced my mind to stay focused on the case. We separated for a while to cover different areas. After six hours and a severe thunderstorm, they called the search off for the day. We sat in the car, the rain was coming down in sheets around us. It wasn't safe to drive. Leaving us trapped inside the car until the storm broke. The silence was deafening until Mulder finally spoke.
"Scully," he said, turning the engine off, but leaving the systems on. "I'm sorry."
The air was charged, probably from the storm. But my entire body was tensed and ready to confront this head on.
"Sorry doesn't cut it, Mulder," I replied, taking off my seat belt and shifting to face him. "I need more than that."
Mulder banged his hand against the steering wheel, then looked at me. "What will cut it?"
"You being straight with me," I said, smoothing my wet hair back.
I watched as his jaw clenched, holding in his own emotions. "I wanted to investigate it first, see if I could come up with anything substantial before coming to you."
"Have you told anyone about us?" I asked directly.
"No," he answered, turning to stare at me.
"I want to trust you, Mulder," I said, shaking my head. "But I can't if you're lying to me."
"I'm not lying..." he started, become defensive.
"I don't want to hear it," I said, cutting him off. "You knew about this weeks ago and chose not to tell me. You knew how much was on the line."
"That's hardly fair, Scully," Mulder snapped. "You think I wanted to keep it from you? And believe me, I know what was on the line. The whole time we've been together, haven't I constantly checked for surveillance equipment, wire taps, recording devices? Been professional with you during work? I've done everything I can to prevent this from happening. I wasn't going to let it all just go. Not without a fight. And not with us divided."
Mulder exhaled, staring out at the window and watching the rain stream down. He pressed his closed fist to his lips, pursing them against it. As if holding back something he wanted to say.
"We're not divided," I said quietly. "They're playing us against each other. I suspect it's someone who knows you wouldn't tell me."
"I was hoping to find out what son of a bitch was behind this," he said, hand reaching over across the seat. He touched my fingers lightly with his. I curled them back, just out of his reach, knowing how powerful that touch could be. And I wanted to think clearly.
"I'm not going to give them what they want, Mulder," I said, with determination as I looked up. "I'm not going to be manipulated like this. Not anymore."
"What about us?" he asked carefully. "It's been hell the last few days, Scully. Not knowing where I stand with you."
"I want to figure out who's doing this, too," I said, avoiding his question. "And why. When we get back to DC, you need to fill me in on what you've been working on."
"I can do that," Mulder said, letting his voice trail away. Still waiting for me to answer that question.
"I'm still your partner, Mulder," I said, emphasizing the word *partner*. "That's what we need to concentrate on at the moment."
"You're so much more than that to me, Scully," he breathed, reaching over to brush a wet tendril of hair from my eyes. I held my breath, trying not to react to the contact. But I felt the charge run right through me. He nodded as he drew his hand away, accepting my answer for now.
J. Edgar Hoover Building
Everything in our lives comes back to the X-files. Mulder has always believed that he could find the answers to anything in them. Even our relationship, no matter how much we had tried to keep it separate. So, that was where Mulder had started to look. We had arrived back from Columbus late in the afternoon and agreed to meet back at the office so he could fill me in on what he had been doing.
I wanted to keep focused on this investigation. And I didn't want to give them anymore fuel for their fire. So despite how hard it was, emotionally I was keeping Mulder at arm's length. But at the moment, physically he was standing very close to me as he was going through the files.
"Jeffrey Spender didn't do much while he was in charge," Mulder said, pulling out a section. "Most of what he did was just to keep the X-files in a holding pattern. Shredding most new reports."
I nodded, leaning in to read over Mulder's shoulder. I could feel the warmth of his body as we stood in the dim light. We'd worked late before, that wasn't unusual at all. But we didn't want to draw any unnecessary attention to ourselves.
"Except these," he said, thumbing through one file in particular. "A narrow few were added."
I felt my body tense at the name written on the bottom of them, right next to Spender's. Diana Fowley.
"This one caught my attention," Mulder said, taking the file over to his desk. He motioned for me to sit in his chair. I opened the file and spread it on my lap, he crouched beside me, holding one arm of the chair for balance.
"Jeremy Buenger. Says here he claims to have been a part of a special task force with the US military. Project RV?" I said, looking over his psychiatric profile. "Of course, there is no record of this."
"RV stands for remote viewing," Mulder said. "It's documented that the government conducted experiments in the 1970's to utilize it as a weapon of espionage."
"What is it?" I asked, skimming the file. He had served in Desert Storm, but it listed his division as tactical and his rank as First Lieutenant.
Mulder edged closer to me, his knees brushing against my legs. Sending a rush of heat through me. His fingers reached up, moving the papers around. He was speaking in low, hushed tones just in case we were being heard.
"Remote viewing is the ability to visualize a target and see it," he said, pointing to the paragraph outlining it. "It has been used before. Successfully."
I kept my attention focused on the file, reading his medical history.
"This target can be anything. Anywhere. To see something or someone hundreds, even thousands of miles away," he continued.
"It's apparent what happened to him, Mulder. He was traumatized by his war experience in Desert Storm and this is his way of coping. Paranoia," I sighed, my patience was wearing thin. "It was easier to imagine he was part of an elite unit undergoing neurological tests."
"You can investigate the science of it Scully," he whispered. I suddenly became aware of the room and where he was sitting. Touching me, but not deliberately. "It has been the focus of numerous studies and research. Humor me for a moment."
"Okay," I said, breath jagged as it escaped past my lips. I moved my legs to the left, so they weren't touching him anymore.
"If it is possible, what a valuable asset that would be. To see something without any evidence. To be anywhere in the world, or with anyone in the world and know what they are doing," he said. I stayed perfectly still as his hand reached over to mine, thumb caressing the sensitive skin of my wrist. "What if someone was watching us now?"
I pulled my hand away, folding my arms protectively. "They probably are, Mulder. But with a camera or video tap. We just missed it."
"I know there wasn't one at your mother's house," he said, sitting back on his heels.
"I'm sure they just removed it," I said, closing the file on my lap. What did it matter? Spender was dead. Fowley was gone. I tapped it for emphasis. "This was just their feeble attempt to show they had been working on something all those months."
"Frohike said there was nothing there. And there was nothing in your apartment or mine. You know that," he countered, using his own logic. "I don't see how else, Scully. This is all I have to go on right now. How often have I been wrong?"
Even in the low light, his hazel eyes shone up at me. Putting his faith in us and in our work. Our work which brought us together in the first place. I pressed my palms flat against the folder, wondering what other choices we had.
"Scully," he whispered again, soft and low. Intimately. It pulled me out of my thoughts and back on him. He laid his hands over mine, lightly. "I need your help. I need the science to back me up. There is too much at stake."
Sometimes, I seriously wondered if Skinner already knew. And he just chose to ignore it. He'd been acting strange the last few months himself, as if he was holding something back from us. I was probably overcompensating for my own sense of guilt for what we had been doing. But Skinner didn't even question when I asked for a few days off to pursue a personal project. Likewise, when Mulder made an excuse to take off as well.
I had even requested a day pass for the Pentagon, and Skinner signed off without saying a word. I was researching for myself what remote viewing was. Mulder was looking for Jeremy Buenger, picking up where Spender and Fowley left off.
Like everything else I've learned about our government, this was another project heavily shrouded in mystery. There was plenty of information in the secular about remote viewing, most of which sounded completely fictitious. By definition, it was a "psychic" technique allowing the viewer to witness any event, thing or being by using the power of the mind.
Historically, it was developed at the Stanford Research Institute for the army and supposedly was used in secret espionage programs. The military application extended to remotely viewing hostile or underground sites, tracking of terrorist cells, hostage crisis and strategy maneuvers. It seems little more that a heightened sense of intuition to me.
I continued reading, until my cell phone started ringing. Disturbing the quiet of the library.
"Scully?" I whispered, not wanting to draw attention.
"It's me," Mulder said. "Do I have to come rescue you from a sexy navy pilot making the moves on you?"
He was using humor to diffuse the awkwardness that still presided between us.
"No," I replied, in a hushed tone. I smiled slightly. "Not yet."
"Have you learned anything about our friend?" he asked.
"Well, the records here are a match to the ones we already have," I said, thumbing through my papers. "I don't know where this is leading. Or where to go with it, Mulder."
"Tell me what you already have," he said.
"Well, I'm finding very little I'd be willing to hang my reputation on. Remote viewing takes advantage of the apparent omnipresence of mind. That we all have the capability to project our mind in the past, present and future. Many of the research into it stems from the levels on consciousness the human mind and learning to control the awareness at each point. The Alpha, Theta and Delta levels of brain activity have been examined."
"So, it's a learned technique?" Mulder asked.
"Apparently, but certain individuals like Jeremy Buenger appear to be naturally intuitive and the perfect candidate for remote viewing. The individual makes *target* contact with something or someone. Enabling them to see, smell, taste, feel and hear the target. If the target is an individual, supposedly they can sense their feelings or share their thoughts," I continued, leaning back in my chair. "You may find this interesting. It says a photographic memory is one of the goals one can achieve through remote viewing techniques, since all permanent memory is stored within the deep subconscious."
I heard him laugh under his breath. "Maybe I make a good target contact, since my subconscious is already in use."
"What have you got?" I asked.
"Jeremy Buenger was discharged from the Marines in 1995. For psychiatric reasons. He worked off and on throughout the late 90's, traveling from place to place. He did suffer from paranoia, plagued with the overwhelming sense of awareness. He became part of the X-files late in 1998 because he would call government officials and make threats."
"Threats over what?"
"He was able to describe very personal details of their lives, some he claimed were involved in cover-ups, through the use of RV. Must have hit a sensitive chord, because instead of dismissing it like the other X-files, Spender and Diana questioned Buenger on numerous occasions. He disappeared shortly after that," Mulder finished.
"So, it's another dead end," I said, gathering my papers. I'd had enough of this for one day.
"No," Mulder replied. "There should be medical records you can review. I have a couple leads I can follow up on."
"Mulder," I said carefully. "I don't think this has anything to do with our situation."
He was quiet for a minute, as if deciding what to say. "I think it does, Scully."
"You sound pretty sure of that," I said, wondering why he was so certain. "And you said this was personal before. What did you mean by that?"
"Both notes were addressed to us specifically, citing an intimate detail of our lives, yet no threat or measure has been taken to expose us. And there is no physical evidence that we were under surveillance at the time. Why a note, Scully? Why not a photograph or something more potentially damaging? I think whoever it is wants us to reopen this case," he replied.
Now it was my turn to be silent. Out of all the hundreds of files we had, why had he chosen this one? It had to be someone who knew that's where he'd look. And it had to be someone who knew about our relationship, enough to use it to their advantage.
And I refused to believe it had anything to do with remote viewing.
"Scully?" he asked, pulling me out of my thoughts.
"I need to finish up here," I said, snapping my attaché shut.
"Can I meet you later?" he asked softly. "I'd really like to see you."
"Mulder," I started, voice sounding apologetic already. I just couldn't. Not yet. Not until I knew.
J. Edgar Hoover Building
Much to my surprise, there were medical records on file in the testing division. Neurological data highlighting activity in the temporal lobe. Jeremy Buenger was given tests as well, where he was asked to visualize certain target places and illustrate them. Places he'd never seen before physically. His accuracy rating was nearly 95%. I stared at the sketches and the actual photographs. They were too detailed to be mere coincidence.
Something written in Fowley's handwriting caught my attention, near the bottom of the page. I squinted and brought it under the light. Trying to make sense of her pathetic ramblings.
"Subject responsive to neuro-stimulation. Has heightened awareness. Shows more accuracy than last RV case in 1991," I quietly read out loud.
Last RV case? In 1991?
My mind made the obvious correlation.
Lone Gunmen Headquarters
"Agent Scully," Frohike said, shepherding me in the door. "Glad you could make it."
I surveyed the room, finding only Mulder perched on the stool. "Byers and Langly?"
"Gone to another trade show," he said, locking the ten locks on the door.
I pressed my lips together and folded my arms. Mulder had called me, asking that I meet him here. If I thought it was hard before, now it was even harder. I wanted to question him so bad, but I hadn't had all the pieces yet. After the fire that destroyed our office, past records were hard to reconstruct. But since this case went back so far, it might be archived elsewhere. I was waiting on a phone call to see if there was anything.
"Hi, Scully," Mulder said, his voice soft and warm. It tugged my insides. It sounded like he missed me.
"Hello, Mulder," I said, trying to keep my voice steady.
"And I'm Frohike," he said, laying a hand on his chest. "Now that we all know each other, let's get down to business."
"I asked Frohike to assist me in picking up Buenger's trail," Mulder said, getting off the stool so I could sit by Frohike and the computer. "He was living in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania after he was discharged."
"I saw that," I said, easing beside Frohike. Mulder stood behind me, one hand resting on my shoulder. "I reviewed his file. Which shows no record of being part of any military elite task force."
"Of course it wouldn't," Frohike said. "The Department of Defense isn't going to list that anywhere. He got busted in 1998 for sending threats to high ranking military officials. Nailed Commander James Kanzler for selling out secrets to the Chinese. Which later, turned out to be true."
"What did his test results say?" Mulder asked me.
"That he exhibited a high accuracy rating," I replied, watching Frohike scrolling through his military record. "But, without administering the tests myself, I cannot accept those findings. There are some neurological scans as well and I'm trying to track down a copy of those."
"They made him a lab rat for a while," Mulder surmised. "Seeing what he could do."
Frohike had tapped into social security records. It showed Buenger receiving disability checks until April. To a P.O. box in Hanover. After that, all activity ceased.
"That was Buenger's last location," Frohike said. "In March. Sometime, late that month, he disappeared for good. There is a missing persons out on him. Listing him as potentially dangerous, disoriented and delusional."
"Can you print this out for me?" Mulder asked. "I think we should start there, since that's where the trail ends. In Hanover."
"You haven't received anything else, have you?" Frohike whispered, concern on his face.
I shook my head. "No."
He nodded. "Good."
Frohike reached over for the printer, pulling out the papers emerging from the top. A chirping sound came from my pocket and I reached for my cell.
"Scully," I said, getting up to give myself privacy.
"Agent Scully, this is Rebecca McAllister from Archives. I have located a copy of that file you requested," she said.
I glanced over at Mulder as he reviewed the papers with Frohike. He looked up for a moment, eyes locked with mine. Could he tell by looking at me? Did he have any sense of what I suspected?
"Agent Scully?" she asked, snapping me out of my thoughts.
"Yes," I said, focusing back on her voice. "I will pick them up shortly. Thank you."
"Who was that?" Mulder asked, hearing my cell phone snap shut.
"My mom," I lied. "I have to get some things I left at her house. Are you going to be home later?"
His expression softened slightly. "Yes, I will."
"Good," I said, gathering my things. "I'll see you later. Bye Frohike."
I turned to leave, my eyes averting his as I made for the door.
"Scully," he said, opening the door. Mulder leaned against the door frame, smiling at me. He was wearing a gray t-shirt and jeans. So different than the man I worked with every day. Taking away all the trapping of our job and underneath it all, he was just a man. On any other Friday night, this would signal the beginning of our other life. Discarding those facades for what was underneath.
But was it just another facade, too?
"Mulder," I said, holding a large folder. I was still in my suit. Shielding my other persona from him. The one most vulnerable. "Can I come in?"
"Sure," he said, moving over just enough to allow me to pass. My body brushed against his as I entered.
He locked the door behind me, then turned to face me.
"I'm glad you're here," he whispered. "I've missed you."
I turned and sat down on the couch. I took a deep breath, preparing myself for what I was going to say. He sat in the chair opposite me, with the coffee table separating us.
"I asked you to be straight with me," I started, voice wavering.
"I have been, Scully," he said, looking concerned.
"No, you haven't," I said, reaching down to the folder I had brought. "What I couldn't figure out is why this case. Of all places to go, why did you come here? To the X-files. To this X-file. One we didn't even work on. Or shall I say, I didn't work on."
"I'm not following you," Mulder said carefully.
"This isn't the first RV case you've investigated, is it Mulder?" I said, opening the file. "I'm sure you haven't forgotten this number, either. Case 0043."
Mulder winced at my emphasis on the word *number*, but said nothing. Allowing me to continue.
"You had worked on it in 1991. Subject: Johnathan Vogel. Has the ability to project his mind to future events using a technique called remote viewing. Claims to visualize targets and can predict situations and events prior to actually occurrence. Agent Fowley has taken a particular interest in this case," I read from his own handwriting. I nearly spit out her name.
"Yes," he answered, unsure of where I was going.
"Is that why you chose this, Mulder?" I asked. "Because you knew it was something she was interested in?"
"It's why she pursued it the second time," he said, matter-of-fact. "And chose not to shred it like the others."
I tried very hard to keep my anger inside. "Why did you keep that from me?"
"I didn't keep it from you," he replied. "I just didn't think it was important."
"Jeremy Buenger isn't the only one who has disappeared," I said, narrowing my eyes. "Do you suspect it's her?"
Mulder shook his head. "No."
"Are you lying to me?" I asked softly, my voice starting to crack.
"No," he answered, angered at the implication. "I'm not. I don't think she has anything to do with it."
I released the breath I was holding. Slowly.
"Is that what you want to believe?" I said, turning my eyes up at him.
"Jesus, Scully. Why won't you trust me?" he asked.
"Because you withhold information, Mulder," I answered, getting up. I turned to walk away.
"Don't," he said, standing up and grabbing my arm. Keeping me in place. "You hear me out. I love you, Scully. I don't want to lose you. There *is* a reason why this is happening. But how it all fits together, I don't know. But if you love me, you have to trust me."
His hand was clutching me harder. As if he was afraid to let go. His face was starting to blur in front of me, making it very hard to concentrate.
Suddenly, the phone rang. It seemed so loud and piercing that it startled me.
Mulder released me, walking over to the phone hanging on the wall.
"Mulder?" he said into the receiver.
I closed my eyes, tears stinging me and I fought them off.
"Who is this?" he asked, something in his tone made me look up. He motioned for me to join him by the phone. His caller ID said *out of area.*
Mulder shifted the receiver so we both could listen.
"Jeremy Buenger," said the voice. It was electronically altered. Impossible to tell if it was a man or a woman. "Is in Annapolis."
"Who is this?" Mulder pressed again.
"3625 Cherokee," it said. Then nothing.
"Goddamn it," he said, dialing quickly. "This is Special Agent Fox Mulder. I need a call traced. Thank you."
I folded my arms around myself, feeling uneasy. That call was too well timed. I walked over to the window, peering out of the corner. The street below was empty and dark. I heard him talking behind me, but I wasn't paying attention.
"Scully," he said, hand barely touching my shoulder. "They weren't able to get a location on that."
I shook my head. "Of course not."
"Someone wants us to find him," Mulder said.
"Or someone is setting us up," I answered. "Damn it, Mulder. I'm not going to be manipulated like this."
"I'm not manipulating you," he said sharply, knowing exactly what I meant by that.
"You can go to Annapolis, Mulder. You can go there and try to find this man. Who I feel has nothing to do with what's happening to us. You asked me to find a scientific explanation to this. I can't. There is none, Mulder. There is *no* correlation to this case."
"Then help me find it, Scully," he said, reaching for my arm. "What is the rational explanation for this?"
"There is none," I repeated, shaking him off. "None."
Now, Mulder disappeared. He was supposed to be scheduled back at work like I was today, but he wasn't there. I suspected he was in Hanover or Annapolis. I did some research myself on 3625 Cherokee. It was an apartment registered to a Robert Henshaw, since May. Even Frohike was unable to find much on that name. Except a hospital billing where he had been admitted to the emergency room. He had been found unconscious in the back seat of a parked taxi cab. Police records show he had a Maryland license, a brand new issue. The photo did not exactly match the military ID of Jeremy Buenger. There were similarities, but without fingerprints it was only speculation.
I had come home, hoping to find a message from Mulder. But there was nothing.
The decision was mine, as it always was, on what to do next.
J. Edgar Hoover Building
I returned to the office, half-expecting to find Mulder there. But instead I found an empty room. I stared at Mulder's "I Want to Believe" poster, its stark lettering visible in the darkness.
I looked over at his chair, spying something small and white against the dark fabric. I reached for it.
It was a napkin, with something scrawled on it. It said, "1 oz Vodka, 1 oz cherry mix, 1/3 sweet sour mix, 2/3 orange juice and 2 oz Cherry Schnapps."
On the reverse, was a logo for a place called the Revolver. In Annapolis. A time was written below. 11:00 p.m.
It was probably Mulder who left this for me, but my mind raced to the other possibilities. Another ploy? More manipulation? I sighed, crumpling it slightly in my fist. I sunk into his chair, clutching at the arm rests for support.
This had to end. I couldn't go on like this anymore. And I had to tell him.
I handled the napkin to the bartender. "Can you make this?"
He looked at it, as he finished wiping a glass. "Sure. Be right back."
It was dark and smoky with music playing loudly off to the side. It was not in a very good area of town. It had an edge to it. I turned around on the barstool, surveying the faces around me. Were they here? Watching me now? Waiting for me to come? I felt instantly for my gun, still holstered underneath my suit.
"Here's your drink," he said, setting it down on a napkin. Then, he fished a key out of his apron. "And this."
"What's it for?" I asked, picking it up.
The bartender shrugged. "Room upstairs, 3A. A guy came in earlier and told me to give that to the woman who orders a Fifty-Seven Chevy."
I stared at the drink. Knowing the significance of that number.
Mulder. It *was* Mulder.
I took a sip of the drink, it was sweet and sharp all at once. With just enough cherry to take the bite out of the vodka. I twirled the key idly in my fingers, wondering if he'd found him. And even if he had and all this was over, I already knew things could never go back to the way they were. They could only go forward.
I turned the key in the door, pushing it open to step inside.
"Didn't think you'd come," he said, looking up from the card table. He was hunched over, wearing a dark t-shirt and jeans. Nearly fading into the darkness. "I guess you got my note."
"Yes, I did. Anything?" I walked the perimeter of the room, where people probably gamble or deal drugs. A large room with sparse furniture and a bathroom.
Mulder shook his head. "No. Not a thing. You were right, Scully. This is just another fucking dead end."
I sighed, staring across at the room he had under surveillance. The apartment building of 3625 Cherokee directly across from the bar. I suspected the Gunmen set him up with the equipment.
"If it is Mulder, then we just start over," I said softly.
"I don't want to start over, Scully," Mulder replied. "It took us so long to get this far already."
The only light was from one tiny bulb in the bathroom. I walked to it, thinking over the words he'd just spoken. Truth was, our partnership could no longer sustain us anymore. I needed more from Mulder than just to work with him. I closed my eyes, imagining life without him.
"And if we're revealed," I whispered.
"I don't care," he said, suddenly right behind me. Pressing his body against my back. "You. You're all that ever mattered."
Below us, the sound of the music pulsed. Almost primitive as I felt it resounding through the floorboards.
"If this is that son of bitch," his voice continued. "Then it ends tonight. But, please don't walk away from me."
His hands were on me. Pressing me close.
"I'm not. That's why I came," I replied, voice barely audible. "They can have everything else, Mulder. Every other fucking thing I have. But not this."
I turned around in the small space of the bathroom. Mulder's mouth captured mine in a hard kiss. I felt his hands reach under my arms, setting me on the sink ledge. I knew as well as he did, there wasn't any time for this. He reached for the light switch on the wall, enveloping us in darkness. Giving us privacy if only for the moment.
We continued to kiss, his lips were rough on mine. His stubble scratching me. He didn't have to kiss me at all. I suspected it was out of some courtesy, so I would think this was more that what it was. But I knew, because I wanted him just as bad. This was sex. Pure and simple. A desperate need to affirm what we both weren't about to give up.
His hands grabbed my skirt, hiking it up my thighs. A thin layer of perspiration was forming on my skin, heat flooded me below. Greedy and impatient.
I reached forward for his pants, tearing at the fly. He groaned as my hands touched him, sliding the zipper down.
"You taste like cherry and vodka," he breathed into my mouth.
"Fifty-Seven Chevy," I whispered back.
My shoes fell with two thuds on the floor, so he could slide my hosiery down. Taking my underwear with it.
I freed him from his constraints, and he pressed himself into my hand. Hard and insistent. But that was not his goal. Nor mine.
Mulder pulled my hand away, laughing slightly. "Time, Scully."
I smiled, knowing that was the precious thing we didn't have right now. "Timing, Mulder," I corrected.
He entered me sharply, causing me to cry out. He silenced me with another kiss, as we fell into a fast rhythm. I was consumed by fire and passion, threatening to burn me from the inside out.
His hardness felt good, countered by my soft core. Fitting around him, inviting him deeper as the friction increased.
"Quiet," he breathed, voice barely above a whisper. I clutched him tighter, nails digging into his back as the orgasm began to ripple. But I knew, so was his. By the way his body tensed inside, ready to explode within me.
I reached up, hand over his mouth gently. Clenching only my teeth as we tried not to make a sound. Pleasure building to its inevitable conclusion as he came inside me. Trembling with me in time.
I felt his lips move beneath my hand. "I love you," he mouthed.
I nodded as I removed my hand, kissing him quietly. Echoing the sentiment.
He slid out of me, leaning back against the wall. His breathing shallow in the darkness. I slid off the sink, reaching for my underwear and shoes. I was flushed over and hot, moisture from the sex was still on my thighs. Reminding me of all the reasons this is wrong. And all the reasons this is right.
Even though it was dark, I could feel his eyes on me. Watching me dress.
"I love you," I whispered, leaning forward to kiss him again.
Suddenly, piercing the quiet was the sound of the equipment. A high buzzing squeal.
Mulder moved into the next room, motioning for me to stay. But I tucked my suit back together and joined him. We stared at the remote unit, it showed the dimly lit apartment and two figures inside. It was very hard to see anything. Mulder turned up the volume and adjusted the board, it helped enough to make it audible.
"Seems you've gone AWOL, soldier," one man said, moving out of range.
"I knew you were going to be here," the other said, through static. "Seems this weapon works both ways."
"Mr. Buenger," he continued. "We have given you what you needed to control this skill and this is how you show your gratitude?"
"Whatever I had before is ten times worse now," Buenger said, his voice louder and clearer. "You said you could help me. You don't work for our government. This isn't part of any secret medical program."
"I told you before. You work for us now. Either you accept your orders or your tour of duty is over," he said, coldly. He shifted so his back was to the camera now.
"Son of a bitch," Mulder breathed, as the dark figure raised a cigarette to his lips.
"They know," Buenger said, voice cutting out. I tried to make adjustments, but it only became more obscured. "And soon they'll know what you did to him, too."
"Not if I carry out my orders," he replied, moving out of range again.
Mulder was already out the door when the gun discharged.
The ambulance arrived just in time. There was nothing I could do for Buenger. He'd been shot in the head two times. Yet, he was still alive. I had ordered he be kept under 24 hour guard. If there was any chance he could live, it wasn't going to be just so they could kill him again.
Mulder had taken off in pursuit of that cigarette smoking bastard. But he was gone, leaving us with nothing. At least he couldn't finish his job. I stared at the blood stain that seeped into the carpet where Jeremy's head was.
"Scully," Mulder called, and I turned around.
"Anything?" I asked, but knowing the answer.
He shook his head. "Is he alive?"
"Yes," I answered, reaching out to grasp his arm. Reassuring him. "I'm going to the hospital with them. I don't know how much time we're going to have."
Mulder nodded, resting his hand over mine. "I think we've stumbled onto something, Scully."
"Agent Scully!" called a paramedic. "We're ready."
"Whatever you can find," he said to me, as I climbed into the back. "Anything, Scully. To hang that reputation on."
I looked at him one last time, before the doors slammed closed. This time, sharing the same thought with him.
Veteran's Administration Hospital
Jeremy Buenger survived, and the bullets were removed successfully. But he would never recover consciousness.
"Agent Scully," Dr. Edwards said. He was Chief of Neurosurgery here and was the one who operated on Buenger. "I have results on some of the scans we did. Not all of them, but the one you requested is here."
I took the large envelopes from him, laying them on the counter of his office.
"He'd been operated on before. We found scars on his scalp and cranium where he'd been opened up," Dr. Edwards said, as I snapped the film on the light table.
"Do you have any idea what for?" I asked, as he maneuvered around me to review the results.
"At first, I thought it was perhaps an injury during his military career. But this is recent. Perhaps in the last six months or so. Butchers," he said, under his breath. He circled areas with his pen. "See? Right in the temporal lobe. This EEG shows brain activity there in levels I've never seen before."
"I have," I whispered.
I stared at the test results. Matching them mentally to another set I had seen. They were similar enough not to be a coincidence. My heart beat faster in my chest, coupled with a sinking feeling of dread at what I suspected.
J. Edgar Hoover Building
Mulder entered the lab where I was working. We were alone, the other technician had gone home at 5:00 p.m.
"You wanted me?" he asked, then his lips turned up in a thin smile. He knew I did. If I wasn't so serious at the moment, I would smile back at him.
"Mulder," I said. "There is someone who knew about us. Or rather, knew how you felt. Long before we ever acted on it. I didn't see it before, but now after examining the evidence...you were right. There was reason why this was happening. A reason to find this man."
"What is it, Scully?" he asked, body tense.
"See?" I said, holding up the film results of the EEG. "This belongs to Jeremy Buenger. Notice the pattern of the temporal lobe. This is where he'd had surgery done. Perhaps six months ago. From what I can see, new cells had been introduced."
"You're saying his brain has been altered?" Mulder asked.
"If RV is possible, it is a mental ability we all might have. Or have the potential for. But there was one person who's abilities might have proved useful in heightening this. Only once have I seen this level of activity."
I reached for the other film, holding it up and showing Mulder where they matched. His eyes moved between them, surveying the information.
"Scully," he whispered, recognizing the film.
"These tests belong to Gibson Praise," I said, sadly. "I know he'd been operated on, tested and experimented on. I think with Jeremy we were looking at the end result."
It was quiet for a few minutes, as Mulder let the information sink in.
"He knew we'd investigate it," I surmised.
"He's alive," Mulder finally said, staring out the window.
There was a logic to this, for the time being I could rationalize it. Whether or not Jeremy wrote the notes was irrelevant. They only served as a ways and means to arrive here. To know that somewhere, Gibson was alive. And whatever they were doing to him, this was his proof to us.
I came up behind Mulder, my hands on his shoulders. I rested my cheek against his back, holding him close. And I didn't care who was watching.