Rating: NC-17. So, you know what to do kids.
Disclaimer: These characters are in no way, shape or form mine. Belong to CC, 1013 and Fox.
Raleigh, North Carolina
"Please explain to me, one more time, what it is you can do?" Mulder asked patiently.
She pressed her lips slowly together, staring at Mulder from behind her thick glasses. Her gown was tied loosely over her right shoulder, the bandages from the bullet wound peeking through the fabric.
"I read auras."
Amber Eschler was tall and thin, 25 years old. She was a school teacher in Gardner, North Carolina. Her white-blonde hair was cut into a blunt pageboy with severe bangs. She sat perfectly erect in her hospital bed, hands laid neatly in her lap.
"And what is an aura?" he asked, for the third time.
"Everything in the universe is just a vibration. Every atom, every part of an atom, every electron, every elemental *particle*. Even your thoughts and consciousness are just vibrations. An aura is that vibration, surrounding every material object," Amber said, her voice clear and distinctive. It was the third time she'd given that answer. Word for word. As if it had been ingrained into her head.
"A detective in Raleigh has been using this *ability*," I said, breaking my silence. I had been sitting quietly off to the side, allowing Mulder to interrogate her. "Enlisting your services as an alternative to polygraphs?"
Amber nodded slowly, speaking softly. As if she was afraid of being overheard. "I can tell when people are lying. It's very apparent. I am occasionally brought in to sit in and observe."
"What's apparent?" I asked, folding my arms.
"The lie," she answered. "The aura shows the true intentions."
I pursed my lips, turning away from her. Not really wanting to hear anything more.
"Is that why an attempt was made on your life?" Mulder asked, pointing to her wounded shoulder. "Someone didn't want you to reveal too much?"
"Truth is an illusion," she said quietly, looking at us both.
Mulder let out a tiny laugh. Truth. That elusive creature we were always chasing. His eyes met mine and I smiled dryly at him. Six years of running after it. If only she knew how well we understood that.
"You'd been working on a variety of cases," I said. "Anyone in particular stand out in your mind? Someone who may want retribution?"
"I keep this very discreet," she responded, her eyes not looking at me but just above me. The way Melissa used to. I found it unnerving. "For that very reason. Not many people know about it."
The door swung open suddenly and two nurses came in, surveying us.
"It's time to change her dressing," one of them said, moving in front of Mulder. "It'll only take a few minutes. We'll let you know when we're through."
"We'll be back," Mulder said, nodding first at Amber, then me. I followed him out the door and into the hall. Our steps falling into a steady rhythm as we walked. Side by side.
"What do you think?" Mulder said, stopping by a water cooler. He reached for the dixie cup, dispensing the purified water into it with a gurgle.
Amber had been shot last night in the garage of her apartment building. She was exiting her car when a single gunshot pierced her right shoulder from behind. A neighbor pulling up witnessed the shooting and called the police. But they were unable to provide a license plate or description.
I shook my head. "This could just be a random act of violence. Nothing more."
"That's not what I meant," Mulder said, sipping the water. "Her ability. That detective has used her for the past two years, ever since one of her students was abducted by a parent. She called the police the afternoon the girl disappeared, because when the father picked her up from school, Amber *saw* his intentions that day. And knew he was lying to her."
"I'd have to review the files," I said, taking a deep breath. "I wonder why he would work with her, instead of using more traditional methods."
"I bet she meditates on crystals, too," Mulder said with an air of sarcasm, offering me the cup. I took it from him, holding the lip against my mouth. "But she seems convinced of her abilities."
"They usually are," I said quietly, taking a drink of the water.
Mulder stared at me, a questioning look in his eyes. But said nothing.
Raleigh Police Department
"Amber Eschler?" Det. Timothy Whitley asked. "She assisted me on a few investigations."
Whitley was tall, with a thick brown hair almost too long for regulations. He stood over a cabinet, pulling out a drawer. His skin was tanned, his gun holster winding around an athletic frame.
"Detective," I said, folding my hands and resting them on his desk. "You believe she has an ability to *read* the intentions of suspects?"
"She is better than any polygraph," he said, flipping through the file cabinet. "Here's a sampling of cases where her ability was utilized. In situations where I had no direction or any solid leads, Amber was brought in during interrogation to determine whether or not the suspect was being truthful. You can see for yourself."
"May I get a copy of these?" I asked, taking the stack from him. "We'll be leaving for DC tomorrow morning and I would like to do some research."
"Certainly," he said, closing the drawer. "I'm anxious to catch whoever did this to Amber."
"Thank you," I said, clutching the stack. Mulder was standing in the threshold, listening to our conversation silently.
"This isn't the first time the F-B-I have shown some interest in Amber," he said, spelling out the letters.
"It isn't?" Mulder asked.
"No," Whitley said, studying us carefully. "Someone from DC had come down before. Late last year."
"We'll check on it," Mulder replied, holding the door for me as I turned to go.
"I owe it to her to keep her safe," Whitley called, putting his hands on his hips. "She's my best kept secret."
"Maybe she's not a secret anymore," Mulder whispered, following me out the door. We headed for the small workroom down the hall. Mulder's hand on my shoulder. Guiding me.
"This is a strange case for Skinner to put us on," I said, settling back in the chair. "It's something they should really be handling here. Except for her affiliation with the police, this is just a drive-by shooting."
"I don't really believe she can do it," Mulder said. He stared at me, watching my reactions closely. "But I thought you'd be more open to it."
"Because of Melissa?" I asked, finally saying her name. He'd been careful not to mention her name at all. But the second Amber's ability had been disclosed, I was reminded of my sister. "This is a different set of circumstances."
"Is there any science behind it?" he asked. "Beyond the New Age hocus pocus?"
"There is a certain science to it," I started, choosing my words carefully. "Aura researchers claim with our eyes, we can perceive a very narrow range of vibration frequencies of electromagnetic vibration corresponding to wave lengths from .3 to .7 micrometers. From purple to red. The mix can even be measured using spectrophotometers."
"And auric sight supposedly can be developed to view these vibrations," Mulder added, sounding as skeptical as I was. "I know many religions used the aura in spiritual matters. Claiming it can be the perfect map to understanding the inner self."
I sighed, flipping through the files. Tuning him out as I tried to find something scientific in Amber's files to support her claim.
"In India, they put a mark on the forehead," he continued, reaching out and touching the center of mine gently. My face grew warm at the contact. I waved his hand away, not wanting it lingering there. "To mark the location of the Third Eye. It's an invitation to look and read one's aura."
"What's mine saying now?" I asked, tiring of the metaphysical discussion.
Mulder's smile faded slowly. He folded his arms, leaning over them as he edged closer to me. I felt the mood shift in the room.
"Scully," he said, voice lowering. "What is wrong? You've been acting, well, distanced since New Orleans."
Actually, I'd felt detached from him since New Orleans. Our unscheduled break last week between cases. Within the twelve hours spent there, we'd touched on certain subjects we had always avoided. While we were there, I allowed myself to open up more than usual. Enjoying the freedom we had, if only for a few hours. Now back in our usual environment, our lives seemed even less in our control. That we were part of a much bigger picture that had yet to come into focus. Or perhaps I just realized that "someday" was probably never going to come for us.
"No," I replied, looking at him. My eyes traveling to his brow subconsciously. Separating my thoughts like oil and vinegar. Personal versus professional. The work surfaced on top. "It's just...this case. I've heard this all before. I didn't really know what to think with Melissa and I'm not sure what to think now."
He fell silent, then nodded. Acknowledging my answer to his question. But not believing it.
La Quinta Inn
Raleigh, North Carolina
I moved over to the air conditioner, trying to crank it up higher. But it was already set on high. All knobs turned over to right. It wailed mercilessly, creaking as it churned out cool, but humid air. We'd been working steadily, reviewing the files Det. Whitley had given us. But there was nothing in them of any real scientific value to me. I sighed. At least tomorrow, we would be home.
We'd said very little to each other all night, Mulder giving me space. For all I knew, he was probably irritated at me. For pulling back once again as soon as we'd made some progress in our relationship. But his face was, as usual, unreadable.
"I'm going back to my room," I said finally, stretching my arms slowly.
But Mulder barely heard me, he was busy on his laptop.
He sipped the last of his iced tea as I fumbled for my shoes, slipping them back on. He was intently staring at the screen, finger poised on his lips. Chuckling softly to himself.
"What's funny?" I asked, as he continued to laugh quietly.
"Did you check your mail today?" he asked, scrolling down the screen. "Skinner sent me the latest sexual harassment policy. I was wondering if you got it."
"No. All I got was a note to make an appointment with him when we get back," I said, coming around to stand behind him. "Don't they normally send that bureau-wide?"
"Normally," he replied, his brow wrinkled slightly. "What is sexual harassment? Sexual harassment is caused by sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or other verbal or physical conduct of an offensive nature."
I leaned down, reading the screen with him. I felt his body tense at my proximity.
"I wonder why I got this now?" he said to himself, then looked over at me carefully. As if afraid of the answer. He then smiled, attempting to eliminate the suspicions creeping in my mind. "But it is an enjoyable read."
I draped my arm lightly over his, taking control of the mouse. Our hands were now entwined. He let out a little moan at the contact. We hadn't touched much either in the last week. "Let's see, examples of sexually offensive conduct-verbal. Telling sexual jokes."
"Maybe," he answered, pulling my other arm around his neck. Almost instinctually, my fingers ventured underneath the shirt between the buttons. I cursed myself silently. Once I started touching him, it was so hard to stop. "Maybe I've done that."
"Comments about body or clothing," I continued, sinking a little deeper against him. As he drew me closer.
"Like it's my fault you dress like that," he replied, lips against my face. "You know how those pant suits turn me on."
"Turning work discussions to sexual topics," I said, trying to maintain composure. And failing miserably. "Asking personal questions about social or sexual life."
"I made some sleeping bag comment once," he whispered. "But you were the one who suggested I might get lucky."
"Wait," I said, scrolling down. He pulled me around and into his lap. Happy I was allowing further contact. Mulder wrapped one arm around my waist, the other was resting over my thighs. "Nonverbal. Do these sound familiar, Mulder? Staring."
"I don't stare at you," he whispered. "I mentally undress you. There's a difference."
"Sexually suggestive posters, calendars, or video tapes," I said, as his hand played along the hem line of my skirt. "Mr. Bottom Right-Hand Drawer."
"My bottom drawer doesn't count. Those were for cases," he answered, pulling my shirt out slowly. The fabric slid along my abdomen, damp from perspiration.
"Facial expressions, such as winking, throwing kisses, or licking lips," I read, taking a deep breath. Should I allow this to happen? It would be easier to stop a freight train with my bare hands.
"No," Mulder said, shifting me around a bit. "You lick your lips. All the time. Your tongue darts out and touches the corner of your mouth. Right here."
His finger touched the spot, then he traced my lower lip. My body reacted to it, leaning into his caress. "I catch you staring at me all the time and doing that."
"Invading a person's body space. Standing closer than necessary for the work being done," I countered. "That one is definitely you."
"Excuse me?" he said, hand between my thighs, running along my nylons. "You are the one sitting in my lap."
"You always invade my personal space," I whispered, mouth dangerously close to his.
"This is crap, Scully," he replied, taking the mouse from me. He spoke in hushed tones. "Let's get to the good stuff. Wait, here we go. Physical. If you want me to harass you, I'm going to do it the right way."
I was finding it harder to breathe. I should just get up and walk away now. Haven't we taken enough chances lately? But I couldn't move.
He scrolled down even more, reading the text carefully. Committing them to memory faster than I could read them. My heart beat soundly in my chest. Except for the constant humming of the air conditioner, the room was completely silent. Instinctively, my eyes glanced at the clock. Carefully monitoring the time. Always the time...timing. Mulder working on his timing...
"Touching a person's clothing, hair or body," Mulder said, slowly closing the laptop and pushing it back. He grasped my waist, lifting me off his lap. Repositioning me so I was sitting on the desk facing him. Over some of the papers he'd been working on.
He shifted his chair so he was directly in front me. I clutched the end of the desk, preparing myself. His eyes were dark in the dim light of the laptop, shining only with desire as he stared up at me. He reached for my shoes, sliding each of them off slowly.
"Doesn't say anything about shoes," he mused, letting them fall to the ground.
Mulder then ran his hands over my skirt, separating my knees slowly. My head rolled to one side. Dizzy from the sensation.
"I love summer," he whispered, shifting the fabric up. "You wear more skirts in the summer. You wear these, too."
"Garter stockings," I replied, as his fingers moved to unsnap them. "I've only started wearing them."
"For me?" he asked hopefully.
"For you," I answered, closing my eyes as he slowly rolled one down my leg. Then the other. "But they are a little cooler in the heat as well."
He smiled, running both hands up and down my calves. Positioning one on either side of the chair.
"Hugging, kissing, patting or stroking," he said, standing up. "I think I can violate all of those at once."
"You shouldn't be trying," I said, as he wrapped his arms around my waist. I reached for his neck, drawing his mouth to mine. My lips parted, allowing him to enter my mouth. Kissing me slowly, my pulse racing as he inhaled my breath. One hand moved to my right breast, stroking it softly through the thin fabric of my shirt.
His other hand snaked around my back. Under my buttocks. Gently patting me.
"Mulder," I whispered, against his mouth. My mind was still protesting.
"Takes skill to sexually harass your partner," he replied, shifting to unbutton my skirt. "I've had years to think about it."
I knew he did. Years and years of waiting for me. It wasn't about just sex, I understood that now. Although, it was important to him that I wanted this, too. And God, I wanted this right now.
My hands were not idle. They traveled from his neck to his shirt, practically ripping the tie away. Then, I worked on the buttons. All the while, his tongue danced over mine. Kissing deeply and lustfully.
"Making sexual gestures with hands or body movements," he breathed. "Can I break that one, too?"
My mouth broke away from his, to catch my breath. I rested my forehead on his, closing my eyes. I nodded.
Mulder unzipped my skirt, lifting me up slightly so he could slide it off. Leaving me wearing only my shirt and undergarments now. He shrugged out of his dress shirt, wearing only a tank top and his slacks. He unbuckled his belt, I fumbled with the zipper. He then reached for my hips, sliding me forward. Pressing his erection against the damp cotton of my underwear. Grinding slowly.
"Does that count as a body movement?" he asked, with a smile.
"Yes," I replied, voice coming out in a short pant. I closed my eyes again, seeing colors swirling everywhere. Random flashes of light. Warning colors of red, orange and yellow.
"Touching or rubbing oneself sexually around or in view of another person," he breathed. "Why don't you do that? For me."
Suddenly, he released me. I opened my eyes, finding Mulder sitting back down in the chair. Half-in and half-out of his slacks. Clutching the arm rests and waiting. Anticipating. Watching.
"Here?" I asked, biting my lower lip.
"Yeah," he whispered, smiling slowly. "Harass me, Scully."
A rush of heat washed over me. Maybe a rush of nervousness and fear as well. I slid my underwear slowly down, shifting slightly to remove it. I rested one foot on his knee, the other one, on the arm rest. I let out a long sigh, running my hand down my abdomen, feeling the garter belt still in place. Seeking release from something more than just sexuality. I neared my curls, and moisture flooded me. All the while, his eyes were fixed on me. But not on my sex, on my face. Watching my reactions.
This is about you Scully. It's always been about you.
My fingers sunk into my folds, hot with increasing blood flow. I touched myself slowly, knowing exactly where I liked to be touched. Where I liked him to touch me. Pressing up in small circles, arching my back slowly.
"Does that feel good?" he asked quietly.
"Not as good as when you do it," I replied, moaning slightly.
He slid the chair forward, hands resting on my thighs. His hand moved mine away, touching me instead. I clutched his shoulders, leaning into his hand.
"Are you ready?" he asked, nearly bringing me to climax already. Then pulling back, leaving me right on the edge.
"Hmmm hmmmm," I murmured, as he eased me off the table and onto his lap. I was almost straddling him on the chair, my buttocks resting on his thighs as we shifted his clothing down further. Getting it out of the way.
"Brushing up against the person," he quoted, gently pressing himself against me. Skin on skin sent another rush through me.
"What does it say about sex?" I said, easing down on him. The chair squeaked under our combined weight. The angle allowed deep penetration. Of both body and mind.
"You're not being coerced, are you?" he whispered, kissing me. "I'm not threatening your job am I?"
"No," I said, my feet just touching the ground, for proper leverage.
We did not bother to remove our remaining clothes, focusing only on the steady rhythm we were working towards. My skin was flushed all over, endorphins driving me. How did this happen so fast? How did I *let* this happen so fast?
"Slow down," Mulder said, as if reading my mind. I took a deep breath, moving slower against him. "I've barely kissed you."
"Okay," I answered. "It just..."
"Feels good," he finished, kissing me softly. He clutched the chair tighter, for support. "Jesus, Scully."
I moaned softly, the constant friction on my clitoris almost sent me over. Merging our bodies together.
"Mmmmm," he said, as I slammed against him. "I must thank Skinner for the e-mail. Finally, a bureau policy I can adhere to."
I laughed softly, ending the sound with a groan as my insides exploded around him. Shuddering everywhere. I paused momentarily, riding out the waves of pleasure released.
"You always...finish first," Mulder said, brushing a stray lock from my eyes. Sweat was covering us both, the a/c did little to help. "I love watching you, Scully. I love..."
"You," I finished, grinding harder. Wanting him to be where I was just seconds ago. I licked my lip, letting it linger in the spot he indicated earlier. I clutched the chair's back.
"Scully," he moaned, drawing my name out slowly. "Right there...ahhhh."
He met my last thrust, hitting me hard as he finally came. The chair stopped its protests, as the rocking died down.
I blew his hair off his forehead, hopefully cooling him slightly. He smiled, throwing his head back. A look of happy satisfaction. We stayed in place, just staring at each other as our bodies cooled. He laughed slowly, like he had been earlier.
"What's funny?" I asked again.
"Bureau policy," he answered, amused at the play on words. His hand reached over, flipping the laptop open again, its LCD screen glowing dimly. Flashing the aforementioned policy that we just mocked. "I was wondering if by chance it was on page 61."
Indiscretion 61. That would have been strange irony. I looked over, squinting against the light.
"Must be fate, Mulder. Page 15."
He smiled, before slamming it shut again.
J. Edgar Hoover Building
I sat down opposite Skinner. There was already tension in the air. He waited until I was settled comfortably, then reached for something amid the files that littered his desk.
"Care to explain these?" Skinner said, sliding a stack of 8 x 10 glossies at me.
I looked down calmly. It was a picture of Mulder and I. From our twelve hour break in New Orleans. My heart raced, but I kept my exterior cool. All we were doing was standing on a boat. Looking over the railing.
"What's exactly was going on there?" he asked, folding his arms and hunching over his desk. Fixing me with that piercing stare. "I remember Mulder asking for a delay in your trip back to DC."
I narrowed my eyes at him, "Were we under surveillance, sir?"
I slowly fanned the photographs out, almost afraid of what I might find. Me pressed against the glass of the hotel we had stayed at? Sitting in Mulder's lap on a chaise lounge? I felt angry at the intrusion.
"Not by me," he answered.
What did he mean by that? Luckily there was nothing directly incriminating in them. Mulder and I wandering the French Quarter. Eating lunch at the Cajun Cabin. Visiting St. Louis Cathedral. I exhaled very slowly, keeping my emotions shoved down. A sickening feeling crept over me. Suspecting this was just a continuation of what we had experienced earlier this summer. Only now they had upped the stakes. From notes to photographs.
"We were taking a break," I said, looking up at him. Voice as steady as possible. "As Agent Mulder reported. Where did they come from?"
"They were sent to me in a plain, manila envelope," he replied. "Just my name, typed on the front. At my home address."
I clenched my teeth slightly. Just like before. First Mulder. Then me. Now Skinner.
"I don't understand why anyone would find our sightseeing in New Orleans so important," I started, meeting his gaze directly. Not giving him any reason to suspect a thing.
"It's not what I see in these photographs," he said quietly, touching the corners lightly. "It's what I don't see. I know you'd be careful in public. All these were taken in public."
"If you're implying any kind of improper conduct," I said, sitting up straighter in the chair.
"I'm just alerting you," he said, cutting me off. But his eyes spoke volumes to me. "Whoever took these are obviously interested in what you and Agent Mulder are doing off assignment. Even if it's nothing...improper. I wanted to let you know."
I sensed he knew something more. Something he wasn't telling me. His behavior had been equally as perplexing lately. Then it hit me. He wasn't reprimanding me. He was warning me. I narrowed my eyes at him, wishing for a second that I could see something around him. To tell me what was the truth.
But of course, I could not.
Hoover Parking Garage
I walked slowly to Mulder's car, slipping into the passenger's side and slamming the door shut. It echoed off the walls.
"Why did you want to meet here?" I asked, referring to the voice mail I'd gotten.
"I know my car isn't bugged," he answered. "I'm not sure about the office anymore."
I opened my mouth, ready to tell him about Skinner, but he continued speaking. Something was worrying him as well.
"I did some digging around. Pretty deep, Scully. Know who'd been asking about Amber Eschler?"
I shook my head, waiting for him to continue.
"Jeffrey Spender," he said, nostrils flaring slightly.
That damn name echoed inside my head. The last time we'd gone investigating into Spender's tenure on the X-files resulted in finding Jeremy Buenger. The man Mulder had thought was responsible for the notes and surveillance. Jeremy was comatose in the hospital with severe brain damage from two gunshots. That cigarette smoking bastard put him there, since Jeremy was a victim of their experimentation. Because he had heightened mental ability.
"She wasn't officially investigated. Whitley was able to ID his photograph for me this morning. He was asking about her, because she assisted with some fugitive case. But he was on the X-files at that time," Mulder continued, breaking my thoughts.
"I doubt it was a coincidence," I said, sarcastically. What the hell was Spender really doing? Those months were shrouded in secrecy. It had been hard to figure out anything Spender and Fowley had done. And piecing it back together had been near impossible. "Were you able to find anything else?"
"Just one thing," he replied. "Scribbled in the corner of his notes from Raleigh. The name *Ephraim.* We have to talk to Amber again, when we get back. See what she can tell us."
"Do you think she's been truthful with us?" I asked.
Mulder shook his head. "I'm not sure. Since I'm colorblind, I couldn't read her damn aura to find out."
I let out a little laugh, looking down at the floorboards. Then quiet filled the space between us. I took a deep breath, to prepare. Now it was my turn.
"He had photographs, Mulder," I began, studying the console to avoid his gaze. I was not up to sugar coating anything. "Skinner. That's why he wanted to see me."
"Photographs," he repeated, unsure of what I was going to say. He shifted in his seat nervously.
"New Orleans," I said, giving him the details slowly. Letting them sink in.
"Photographs of...?" he asked, voice trailing away.
"Not of that," I assured him. He sighed in relief, throwing his head back against the head rest and closing his eyes. "Or at least not ones he wanted to share with me."
"How did he get them?" Mulder demanded, having the same suspicions I did.
"He says he got them in a plain brown envelope, addressed to him. At his home," I answered, looking out at the rows and rows of parked cars ahead. Was someone watching us now? "Does that sound familiar?"
From the window, I saw his reflection. He shook his head slowly.
"You haven't gotten any, have you?" I inquired, snapping my head back to look at him accusingly.
"No," he said sharply, become defensive. "I'm not going through this again with you. Not after everything, Scully..."
Doubts. Yes, Mulder I still have them, my mind answered. I suspected, I always would. But this time, he wasn't lying to me.
"I don't know," I started, turning to face him. My back against the passenger side door, the handle cutting into me. "I don't know what this means, Mulder. I don't know if he's even being straight with us. I suspect Skinner knows more. Explains the e-mail, maybe he was trying to alert you."
"Scully," he said, drawing my name out. "Don't..."
"At least let's be truthful with ourselves," I started, cutting him off. "We've been mocking bureau policy all along. Ever since day one we were assigned to the X-files. He hardly seemed surprised. Maybe this would be just another one we've disregarded to him. But he was warning me."
"What is he going to do?" Mulder asked, hanging on my words.
"Nothing," I replied, staring at him until he started to blur in front me. Out of focus. Colors swirled around him, in blues and green.
"Then nothing is what we will do," he said, applying some Mulder-logic. He started the car, saying little else. "We have other concerns at the moment."
Lone Gunmen Headquarters
"Amber Eschler...Amber Eschler?" Frohike muttered, typing information into the computer. "That's a strange name."
"She's a strange girl. Reads auras," Mulder said, sitting on the edge of the table as we worked. "Just your type."
"Ooooh," he said, as her driver's license picture cascaded down the screen. "She's fly."
"Well, Spender must have thought so too. He paid her a little visit in 1998 after she worked on a fugitive case," Mulder said, throwing the information out. Watching Frohike's reaction.
"This is a new issue," Frohike said. He continued typing, moving in and out of databases quickly. "Actually, so is her social security number. Going back about three years."
"There is something else," Mulder said, easing back in his chair. "The name *Ephraim*. Can we check that too?"
"Ephraim?" Langly asked, coming around the other side. He sipped his Capri Sun loudly, making the bag crinkle. "Why does that sound so familiar?"
Mulder shrugged. "She's also worked with the Raleigh police for the past two years. Hacked into their computers lately?"
Langly shook his head. He moved away, to another computer across the room. "Nope. It's just...sticking in my head. Let me try something."
"She works with Det. Timothy Whitley," I added, hoping that might help. "She's better than any polygraph, according to his records."
"Hmmmm, Whitley," Frohike muttered, working off that name. Soon, his face fluttered across the screen as well. "Oh yeah, Mr. Psi-Cop himself. We've seen him before. He's no stranger to alternative methods of investigation. When he used to work in Gainesville, Georgia, his name was frequently in the papers in the late 1980's. He would lecture on how psychics and mediums were invaluable to police investigation."
"He seemed pretty protective of Amber," Mulder said.
"Of course he would be," Frohike said. "She gives credibility to his work. Especially if her accuracy rating is as high as you say it is. And, here's something. It's like all records of Amber Eschler only go back to 1990."
"Ephraim. Knew that name sounded familiar," Langly said, getting our attention. "Professor Thomas Ephraim was featured in one of our first editions. He worked in Russia for five years in auric research. He proposed that the aura around humans is partially composed of electromagnetic radiation. Spanning from microwaves to infrared to UV light. The low frequency microwave and infrared part of the spectrum seemed to be related to the low levels functions of our body."
"Such as metabolism and circulation?" I asked, moving by Langly.
"And DNA. And high frequency UV is related to conscious activity, such as thinking, creativity and emotions. He claimed that our DNA can be altered by influencing the microwave aura," Langly said, digging through a file cabinet. He pulled out the edition he was referring to, slapping it on the table.
"So where is he?" Mulder asked, reading over Langly's shoulder.
"Gone," Langly said. "He disappeared about ten years ago. But not before he was accused of certain experimentation...one of his test subjects was his daughter."
"Who wouldn't happen to be named Amber?" I said, glaring at him.
"Actually, we have her name listed as Audra," he said, adjusting his glasses. "But that's close enough for me. Audra Ephraim--Amber Eschler. I think we are talking about the same person."
J. Edgar Hoover Building
The Gunmen were able to find a little more on Audra Ephraim, details were very sketchy. Apparently, Dr. Ephraim disappeared in 1989. Probably to avoid facing charges for his experimentation. His daughter was put into protective custody, assuming the name Amber. Adopting a new identity. Mulder's disinterest in her ability had changed a bit, since it was apparent this wasn't just some New Age religious trend to her.
"Amber is variation of the color yellow," Mulder said, flipping through a book on mystical healing. "In auric readings, yellow is supposed to symbolize joy and freedom."
"Ironic. It doesn't sound like her life had much joy or freedom," I said, sinking deeper into the chair. I hated working on Saturdays. The basement felt more like a prison. While the rest of the world enjoyed the daylight and the sun, we were stuck in the darkness. If I stood on the table, I could peer out the window. At normal life.
"She was experimented on by her own father," Mulder said softly, almost to himself.
Samantha. He didn't have to say it. Funny how this girl reminded us both of our sisters. Aura reading Melissa, elusive Samantha.
"What I can't figure out is why she'd go to the police?" I said, looking through the files for the hundredth time. "If she wanted to keep this a secret?"
"I think it was Whitley who drew it out of her," Mulder said, taking a sharpened pencil and spearing the ceiling with it. "She was just being a Good Samaritan, reporting that guy. Whitley picked up on what she could do. Given his background, do you blame him? He probably promised her secrecy and protection in exchange for her abilities. She only comes in occasionally and only for his cases."
"Do you think there is something going on between them?" I asked, looking over at Mulder.
He shrugged, aiming another pencil upwards. "Would explain a few things."
"Spender," I whispered, looking as his file. His FBI ID pictured glared back at me. Expressionless. What the hell were you doing?
I flipped forward, spying Diana Fowley's name as well. What the hell were you both doing?
"I'm going to look into the protection program and find out what I can about Audra here. And I'm booking an earlier flight to Raleigh on Monday," Mulder said, picking up the phone. "You don't have anything else going on, do you?"
"No," I replied, neatly arranging the paper work.
"Good," he said, reaching for a post-it note. He scribbled something as he waited on hold. Mulder smiled, sticking it to my arm. I peeled it off, reading it silently.
My place at 7:00 p.m.?
I grabbed a pencil, writing my answer below it. I stuck it on his forehead, as I got up to go.
"Yes," he read, smiling. Then whispered to me, hand over the receiver. "I'll see what other FBI policies we can go over."
I took a shower, to relax and unwind. I invited Mulder to join me, but he declined. Giving me space again. Afterwards, I changed into one of Mulder's t-shirts and a pair of boxers. My hair was still wet. I slicked it off my forehead as I sat back down on the couch beside him. He was quiet, reviewing the information from earlier while he waited for me. Running it over and over through his mind, seeing if anything would sift out that would make sense of it all.
"Nothing else on her father?" I asked, seeing an e-mail or two from Langly.
"No," he replied. Mulder tossed the papers aside, letting them feather out along the coffee table. "And we won't get any answers until Monday."
"We need to be careful, Mulder," I started, falling back against the leather cushions. I folded my arms around myself. "With Skinner."
"Scully," he replied calmly. He shifted, focusing his attention on me. "You said yourself, he's not going to do anything. He doesn't have anything damaging that we know of."
"I can't help but think..." I began, silenced my Mulder's mouth over mine.
"Don't," he whispered, lips over mine. "I can't live my life like that. And neither can you."
Mulder reached over me, turning off the light. The room was dark, except for the glow of the fish tank in the corner.
The v-neck of his shirt came right between my breasts. I wasn't wearing a bra, my nipples visible beneath the thin cotton. His fingers reached up to that space between my breasts. Smiling.
"Is there any other bureau policy you want me to clarify for you?" he asked, touching me gingerly.
"Not really," I replied as he continued, moving his hand to cup my right breast. "I think by now I know what's proper conduct and what's not."
He ran his other hand up my thigh, underneath the boxers. He was surprised to only feel skin.
"Scully," he said, scolding a little. "You're not wearing anything underneath these."
"Isn't that how you wear them?" I countered, hand moving slowly to his fly. "Do you have anything underneath yours?"
"Just one thing," he whispered, as my fingers grazed him.
I leaned forward, kissing his mouth softly. I closed my eyes, lost in that moment of growing arousal. Feeling the tension building between us. But not like before. This was slow, measured and relaxed. Like New Orleans was. His tongue danced over mine, savoring each kiss. His arms wrapped around me, shielding me in his embrace. The room shifted, as he lowered me onto the couch. His body covering mine.
"I'm sorry," he whispered. "I'm sorry this is so screwed up."
"It's not," I replied, looking at him. How the hell was this going to work out? "It's just..."
"A fucking mess," he answered, with a slight smile. "At least let's be truthful with ourselves."
He lowered his mouth over mine, parting my lips again. Deepening the kiss, driving those doubts away. If only momentarily.
Mulder pulled away suddenly. As we listened intently.
Followed by a scraping sound. Like fingernails on wood. It made the hair on my neck stand straight up.
"What the hell..." Mulder muttered. He laid a hand over my mouth gently, silencing me. "I'll see who it is."
He moved off of me, and I sat up. I was nervous, wondering who would be intruding on us at this late hour. All the shades were drawn. It was dark and quiet. Mulder had checked for surveillance three times before I came over.
Mulder peered out the peephole, then began fumbling with the locks.
"Jesus," he exclaimed, fighting the dead bolt. "Scully! Help me!"
I got up, moving to join him. Mulder flung open the door, just in time to catch something in his arms. They both collapsed onto the floor. He shifted the weight around, and her head lolled backwards
"Amber!" I said, brushing her damp hair from her eyes.
She looked like death warmed over.
"Amber," I asked, as her eyes fluttered open again. "Nod if you understand me."
She was lying on Mulder's couch, feverish with cold sweats. I wanted to call an ambulance, but Mulder stopped me. Since we didn't know what circumstances brought her here. I changed back into my clothes, adopting a professional manner again.
Amber nodded slowly. I checked her pupils again. Still dilated. Her left arm had a needle puncture too rough to be from her IV. It was bruised and swollen.
"Think she's been poisoned?" Mulder asked. He was perched on the coffee table.
"She's been injected with something," I said, touching the area gingerly. "Amber? Do you know where you are?"
She shook her head.
"Do you know how you got here?"
"Tim," she breathed, the name coming out slowly. "Tim brought me here. Thought I'd be safe with you."
"Where is he now?" Mulder asked.
"I don't know," she replied, trying to focus on me. Her glasses were missing and the clothes she had on were three sizes too big for her small frame. As if she was dressed in a hurry with what was available.
"What happened, Amber?" I asked, voice very direct. She was becoming more coherent and aware.
"A woman came to the hospital...Dr. Sheryl Leighton," she started, voice shaking. "Said she studied the phenomena of aural sciences." Amber shook her head back and forth.
"But she was lying," Mulder concluded.
"I screamed. Then, she grabbed me. Shoved a needle in my arm and tried to inject me with something...she didn't know Tim was in the hallway..."
"She got away. And Tim brought you here," I abbreviated, trying to get the basics from her.
"Yes," she whispered. Then she drifted off again, collapsing into the pillow and muttering. "It's happening again...not again..."
"We have to get her to the hospital Mulder," I said, standing up and reaching for the phone. "Now."
St. Mary's Mercy
Amber had been injected with Temazepam, a sedative normally used to control anxiety. But it was mixed with something unidentifiable, rendering it more like a poison. Her system was in toxic shock. But she was now recovering, as they worked to clear her system. My aura must not have been suspicious for her, since I was the only one she'd talk to during the whole procedure. I stood in the hallway, reading the various literature on the wall in no particular order.
"Hey Scully," Mulder said, coming up behind me. His hand rested on my lower back, stroking the base of my spine gently before pulling away. "Anything?"
"She's weak, but they are detoxing her system now," I said, easing into a worn vinyl chair. "Did you find Det. Whitley?"
"No," Mulder answered, pacing slightly in front of me. Then he crouched down, looking up at me. "He seems to have disappeared. No one has seen him since Saturday, but they verified his last location was at the hospital. Which corroborates her story. The guys are working on getting the film from the security tapes."
"I take it there are no records of a Dr. Sharon Leighton in Raleigh."
"Not anywhere, actually," Mulder said. "Which is why any positive ID she can make will be crucial."
"You haven't called Skinner yet, have you?" I asked, still not sure how much he should know. Especially the part about us both being in Mulder's apartment at such a late hour.
"She's ready to see you now, Dr. Scully," the nurse said, exiting Amber's room.
I got up and followed Mulder into the room. Amber was lying down, IV's covered both arms. Pumping her full of fluids. She looked up at us, watching. I stood by her bed, Mulder by the window.
"Amber," I said, folding my arms. "Or shall I say Audra?"
"No one has called me Audra in a long time," she replied, her voice raspy from fatigue.
"We have a couple questions for you, if you feel up to it," I started. Her eyes once again, looked not at me, but above me. Around me.
She nodded. "I'll try."
"Do you remember talking to someone else with the FBI, late last year? His name was Jeffrey Spender?" I began, curious of her answers.
"I was working on a fugitive case with Tim," she said. "And this man came, supposedly to help out in the investigation. That's what we told Tim, but he really came to talk to me."
"About what?" Mulder inquired.
"About my father," she replied. "He said, my life might be in jeopardy if I didn't help him."
"Help him with what?" I asked, growing ever suspicious of this story.
"Testings," Amber said. "He said the FBI wanted to see what my father had done to me. To find out how he...heightened my mental abilities."
"Scully," Mulder whispered behind me. I held my hand up, knowing what those words signified.
"Did you agree to it?" I continued, pressing her further.
"No. Not at first," she said, closing her eyes. Tears forming underneath. "But Tim said perhaps I should, since he believes in the value of psychic ability to police work."
"What happened, Amber?" Mulder asked, edging closer.
"At first, their experiments were simple enough," Amber said, voice shaking as she continued. "But then, I began having blackouts. Losing time. And I was sick, very sick afterwards. Then, the lies started. When I'd ask about the testings, they would lie."
"Who are *they* Amber?" I asked, wanting it clarified.
"Doctors," she replied. "Who work for the government. At least, that's what they said. They said they were looking for my father."
"And you believed them," Mulder said, his brow knotted.
"That wasn't a lie," she answered. "But they couldn't hide their auras from me. Gray and hazy. It means dark thoughts, unclear intentions...."
"Could you identify these people?" I asked, sitting on the edge of the bed.
Amber shook her head. "The blackouts...I can't remember much."
"Why did they stop testing you?" I narrowed my eyes, not understanding.
"I don't know," she replied. "But I thought they got what they needed from me. Until now."
I looked back at Mulder, trying to decipher what he thought of all this.
"Tim..." Amber said quietly, looking up at me. "Has he called? Do you know where he is?"
I shook my head. "No, Amber."
She stared at me again, around me and above me. Straining to focus on something. Then, she fell back on the pillow. Tears escaping again. And I wasn't sure who they were for.
"Does Whitley know about you, Amber? About being in the protection program? Who your dad was? Any of this?" Mulder asked.
"No," she said, her voice small and distant. "I think they must have him. Because of me..."
Lone Gunmen Headquarters
"This is the best we can do with it," Langly said, setting a marquee around a dark figure on the film. He set it to magnify 1200%, then sharpened it. "About the time, Amber had indicated, this woman did enter her room. See? Det. Whitley is right here."
I sighed, watching as he tried to enhance the woman's face. It was blurry and unclear. She knew she was being filmed, carefully avoiding the camera's eye. She had on glasses, with large, tinted lenses that helped obscure her face. Her dark brown hair was pulled back tightly.
"Think this will help?" Langly asked, printing out the picture.
"It might," Mulder said, taking it off the printer. "Although, it could be anyone."
"Not really," I said quietly, turning my lips up. I could only think of one woman besides me involved with this whole mess. Mulder glared over at me, but I said nothing else. He heard me the first time.
"He disappeared?" Langly asked, interrupting us. "Whitley did?"
"For now," Mulder replied, hands on hips. "She claims he was the one who brought her to my doorstep, but no one can find him now."
I closed my tired eyes, seeing colors flashing again. Residual effects of staring at him too long. This time they were lighter shades of white and gray.
"When is the test scheduled?" Mulder asked, changing the subject.
The EEG on Amber. I had to know. If she was like Jeremy.
"Monday afternoon," I answered, not happy with the delay. But it was an expensive procedure, especially the high definition EEG needed to map her brain. They didn't have the equipment at the hospital Amber was currently in. I had to pull strings to get her in then.
"Good," he said. Understanding fully the significance.
J. Edgar Hoover Building
I opened the file, setting it down in front of Amber. "Is this the woman who came to see you?"
She picked up Fowley's picture, holding it up. Her fingers were trembling slightly. "It might be."
"Might be," I repeated, sitting down opposite Amber. I folded my arms, ready to interrogate her. I was tired of playing games. "I think you can do better than that."
She looked up at me, narrowing her eyes. "This woman, you want it to be her."
"What I want is you to be truthful with me, Amber."
"It could be," she answered, studying it carefully. "I can't see her face clearly."
"Do you know who she is?" I asked, folding my arms.
Amber shook her head.
"She used to work with Jeffrey Spender," I answered, matter-of-factly. "If it is her, it's very important you tell me."
"Where is he?" she asked softly. "Agent Spender..."
"He's dead," I replied, carefully watching her reaction. "Murdered in his office."
Amber swallowed hard, she seemed nervous at that revelation. The room grew quiet and I sat back, waiting for her to talk. To tell me more. I was sick of being lied to.
"Dr. Leighton said she knew where my father was," she began. "That his...experiments were continuing. Only past the auric research. Increasing awareness. Perception. Beyond the boundaries of normal senses. They needed me, just one more time. To test me, to find out exactly what he had done to me. To my mind, my senses that gives me this ability."
"Amber," I said, walking over to her. "It's also important that you allow me to run a test this afternoon. I need to determine what activity there is in your temporal lobe. This is not connected to your father's research, but rather to another investigation. I suspect during your blackouts, they might have tampered with you more than you think."
"You believe that," she said, eyes traveling over me.
I nodded. "It's just a theory. But it's all I have to go on right now."
Suddenly, the door swung open. I turned around, seeing Skinner standing in the threshold.
"Agent Scully?" he asked, then moved to see around me. His eyes met Amber's. "I need to see you, now."
"Don't go anywhere," I instructed. She nodded, watching us both carefully as we left.
"What is it, sir?" I asked, after closing the door. I leaned against the wall, staring up at his face.
"Why have you brought her here?" he asked, hands on hips. I could see a thin layer of perspiration forming over his brow. Which was knotted slightly. His eyes pierced through mine and he edged a little closer. "To DC? That's the Ephraim girl."
"She came to us," I said carefully. What did he just call her? "I have reason to believe there have been two attempts on her life. She is safer here."
"Don't be so certain," he said, closing the gap between us. He was standing so close, I could practically feel the tension rising off his body. My face flushed red, my temperature elevating slightly.
"Why did you put on this case, sir?" I asked, holding my ground. Skinner's eyes searched mine and his lips parted momentarily. As if about to say something.
Mulder's voice cut right between us, causing him to back off. Skinner took three steps backwards, allowing Mulder space.
"Agents," he said, nodding at us both. He turned to go, walking down the hallway. Not looking back.
"Where have you been?" Mulder pressed, staring at me. "I called the hospital and they said you checked Amber out."
"Yes," I answered, not wanting him to know yet what questions I had asked her. "Her EEG is scheduled for later. And I wanted to keep an eye on her."
"I've been on the phone with Raleigh PD again. Still no word from Whitley," he said, studying me carefully. "What's wrong, Scully?"
"Have you talked to Skinner?" I asked, looking up at him. "About who she really is?"
Mulder shook his head slowly. "No, but he could have found out she was in the protection program."
"Maybe," I whispered, staring back down the hallway. It was now empty.
Amber was resting on Mulder's couch. Her system was still recovering, but I wasn't going to take the chance that she would have another "visit" from anyone. Mulder was at the Gunmen's, trying to track down Whitley.
Her EEG went right on schedule, with results arriving in the morning. I breathed a sigh of relief. I would have my answer then. One more piece of information. I leaned against the wall outside of Mulder's bedroom, memories were creeping into my head. Almost instinctually, I laid my palms against it. Remembering a night pressed up against it. It was if the wall had a residual of that energy, I could almost feel it seeping through my skin. Mulder and I. Tangled in a heated embrace.
It dissipated slowly, images of those damn pictures replaced it. What was next, I wondered. Would Skinner decide to take action? Would someone else be sent something more explicit? What did they want from us? Were we supposed to be doing something? What the fuck was going on? My head began to ache and I slid slowly down the wall. Ending up on the floor, staring blankly out.
I knew better than to ask those questions.
The phone rang, disturbing the quiet. I saw Amber reaching over for it, as I scrambled to my feet.
"Hello?" Amber asked, sitting up slightly.
"Don't!" I called, trying to take the phone from her. Mulder's caller ID said *out of area.*
"No," she pleaded, holding the phone closer. "It's Tim."
I knew the call was being monitored, by the Gunmen. Probably by someone else, too. I raced to the phone in the kitchen, picking up the receiver.
"Amber, listen to me," the voice said. It could be Whitley, it was hard for me to place it, since I'd only heard him once. "I need you to come get me. I have information, Amber. About what they've done to you. But you need to hurry."
"Where are you?" she asked, voice shaky. I looked over, seeing tears escaping between breaths. "I've been so worried, Tim. Tell me you're okay."
"I'm in Dale City," he said. "7455 Memorial Street. Hurry, Amber. In the next hour...before..."
The phone when dead.
"Before?" she pleaded, looking over at me. "Tim? Tim?"
"Hang up the phone," I instructed, trying to get a trace on it. I started dialing.
"I have to go," she said, standing up. Amber scrambled for her shoes. "You heard him, within the hour. Dale City is south of here, right?"
"No, Amber," I replied, grabbing her arm. "You can't. It's too dangerous. We're going to call Mulder now."
"It can't wait," she said, shaking out of my grasp. "He has information for us. To help us."
"Why do you trust him?" I asked, narrowing my eyes at her.
"Because," she said, looking up. Shaking out of my grip. "I love him."
"And he's never lied to you?" I asked accusingly. "Just because you love someone doesn't mean they don't lie."
"No," she answered. "He never has. And I know what these people are capable of doing. Just like Spender, they'll kill him. I know they will. If we don't get him now."
7455 Memorial Street
She wouldn't wait for Mulder, but he was going to meet us there. He was about 15 minutes behind us, driving faster and faster to catch up.
The address was a old factory with a huge parking lot. We drove around slowly, headlights cutting through the hazy, humid night air. But there was nothing.
"Mulder," I asked, as I continued to drive. "What kind of car does Whitley have?"
"Grand Am," Amber replied, anxiously looking out the window. "Black."
"Grand Am," Mulder said, not hearing her. "North Carolina plates 265-MN3."
"There!" Amber shouted, pointing into the darkness. At the silhouette of the car. Parked between crates and storage sheds, almost hidden. "Stop the car, stop the car!"
"Did you find it?" Mulder asked, voice scratching out through the connection.
"I think so," I said, pulling slowly around. My headlights hit the plate, reflecting the number he just recited. "Yes, it's a match."
"Wait for me," Mulder said firmly. "I'll be there in ten minutes. Just wait for me."
As soon as the car slowed enough, Amber had her door open. Flinging the seat belt off.
"Amber!" I shouted. "Do not get out of the car! Goddamn it, Amber."
"Scully! Wait for me!" Mulder yelled through the receiver, but I dropped it on the seat as I lunged across to grab Amber. She shook herself free, exiting the car. I slammed the brakes, throwing it into park.
I drew my gun, running after her. Amber was almost to the Grand Am. She stopped when she reached the driver's side, her hands over her mouth as she screamed.
"Tim! Jesus, Tim!" she cried, prying the door open. I stopped running, holding my gun steady and level. He collapsed into her arms, blood pouring out of his head. Twin bullets holes, execution-style were in his forehead. He must have died just moments before, the blood still fresh as it soaked her clothing.
"Amber," I said, lowering my gun and shifting it to my right hand. With my left hand, I seized hold of her arm, trying to yank her up. "We have to get out of here, now!"
Suddenly, the lights snapped on. Blinding us temporarily as they bore down on us. I held my hand up, shielding my eyes so they could adjust.
"Look out!" Amber shouted, her voice shrieking. I turned, my head making contact with something sharp. Pain searing through my brain as I fell forward, hitting the car. I clutched at it, scraping the metal and landing on the asphalt. Everything was spinning, dark and light all at once.
"No!" I heard her screaming. "NO!"
"C'mon, Amber," said another voice, as she continued to scream. The piercing sound kept me from falling into the darkness that was swallowing me. "No more fucking games."
Someone turned me over roughly, my eyes fluttered slightly, but were blinded by the white spotlights. Two shadows passed over me between blinks. Amber's cries continued, but then...were silenced.
"What about her?" said one voice, different than the other. It was female.
"Leave her," the other replied. "He'll be coming for her anyway."
"Another time," I heard her say. Then, nothing.
St. Mary's Mercy
"Scully," said Mulder's voice in the darkness. I opened my eyes slowly, feeling the bed shift as he sat down beside me.
"Yes?" I muttered sleepily, forcing myself awake.
He smiled down at me, finger playing with my hospital ID bracelet. "Is there room for me in that bed?"
"Mulder," I said, shaking my head slowly. He laughed quietly to himself. I'd awoke at 5:30 a.m. to find him there. Hovering over me. He'd found me in the parking lot with Whitley's body. Amber was gone, traces of her blood were left behind. I had been struck in the back of the head by some kind of blunt object. Giving me a concussion and a huge welt. But the pain had already subsided.
"They tell me you'll probably be released soon at the rate you're going," he said, looking around the room before staring at me again. "Your injury is healing quickly. Too bad, Scully. Because I was going to treat you to my bedside manner."
His thumb traced circles on the inside of my palm. I closed my eyes momentarily, grinning slightly at the implication.
"Anything?" I asked, as my thoughts drifted to Amber. Or Audra.
"You were right. She was another one," he whispered. "Your EEG results came in this morning. I'm not a neurologist, but they look just like Buenger's. With increased activity in the temporal lobe."
That was two that we knew of. Three if you counted Gibson. What were they doing this time? Pain shot through my head again and I could not think analytically at the moment. But there would be time later to review it in detail.
I concentrated on Mulder, feeling the warmth of his hand as it surrounded mine. He laced our fingers together. Holding tightly. Someday. Someday, we'd have more answers. In my dizzy perception, he blurred again. This time, in vibrant shades of blue.