The Shadows have eyes By Foxglove 

Rating Strong R Adult situations , violence

Category MT Angst MSR

Spoilers Brand X

Disclaimer. Do we really need these. We know and love Cc for Inventing the X files and giving us hours of fun and fanfic addictions. Fox also gets royalties. No harm No foul.

Archive. Yeah wherever.

Feedback. I thrive on the kindness of others.



Scully's Apartment Complex.
5th June.
8 pm

Dana Scully tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear and stared unseeingly through the windshield of her car. Her hands clenched on the steering wheel as her thoughts chased each other incessantly.

Stubborn, exasperating, opinionated, aggravating; her brain supplied a non-stop list of adjectives that described her partner. Infuriating, relentless, impatient, complicated. She recalled clearly the look on his face as he tried to convince her of the authenticity of a new case. His sleek silky hair with the single lock that kept falling over his forehead, which made him look so much like a little boy. His expressive eyes gleaming with a barely contained enthusiasm, the way the very corners of his pouty mouth turned upward in an attempt to win her over. A pair of charcoal pants riding low on his hips, his tie already askew this early in the morning, shirtsleeves rolled to just above his elbows with the fine hair on his arms quivering from the strong breeze of the air conditioner.

Scully blinked suddenly and shook her head, her focus shifting abruptly from her inner musings and back to the realization that she was sitting behind the wheel of her idling car, which was parked directly outside her apartment building. She didn't consciously remember the majority of the drive from the Hoover building and wondered at the level of her distraction. She turned off the key in the ignition and removed it, holding it loosely in her hand.

Wearily, she exited her car, pausing to collect her briefcase, luggage and laptop from the backseat. As she shut the rear door, her eyes alighted on the left rear panel of the vehicle, which was now minus a taillight and the bearer of an impressive dent.

She sighed deeply, mentally calculating how long repairs were liable to take and the inconvenience of being without her vehicle for however long it took. Her mind took her back three days previously, when she had walked into the office to be confronted by her partner clutching a folder in his hand.

X-Files Basement Office.
2nd June.
7.30 am

"Hey Scully, whatcha know about Bigfoot?"

She had shrugged off her coat and placed her briefcase on a chair before answering. "About as much as you can find out on the Discovery channel Mulder, why?" She cringed inwardly at the final word of her reply as soon as it was spoken, recognizing in her partner an almost childlike enthusiasm, that she just knew was going to be focused in a lengthy explanation of all the information that his incredible intellect had gathered on the subject.

She was not disappointed, nearly fifteen minutes later, he was still going strong, stalking back and forth across their cramped office, regaling her with a myriad of the most obscure details that she had ever heard. Finally she interrupted. "I know I'm asking the obvious here Mulder, but I take it this overabundance of information pertains to a case?" She regarded him from her perch against his extraordinarily cluttered desk.

Mulder nodded eagerly. "Several sightings over the last few weeks have the good people around Rainbow Falls State Park in Washington somewhat worried. A few bodies have been found in a dilapidated and er... chewed state." He slapped the file against his thigh. "Skinner signed off on the 302 and I've booked us two tickets on this afternoon's flight to Chehalis."

"To where?"

"Chehalis, it's the nearest airport to the Gifford-Pinchot National Forest, actually it's called the Chehalis-Centralia Airport."

Her head tipped to one side, Scully regarded her partner. "How in the world did you convince Skinner to let you investigate a case about a mythical creature?"

"Hardly mythical Scully." Mulder strode over to a filing cabinet and yanked a drawer open. Rummaging though several files, he pulled out a bulging folder. "Documented evidence, eyewitness reports, analysis of hair samples, photographs of footprints."

Scully felt her eyebrow climbing with every word her partner offered. "Mulder, Bigfoot is nothing more than an urban legend, I have no doubt that if every piece of evidence you have presented was examined in a scientific manner, a rational explanation would be found for each one that would have nothing to do with a mythical creature, and more to do with varied individuals desire for notoriety and their five minutes in the spotlight."

Mulder stood stock still, two spots of color high on his cheeks, one hand splayed out across the top of the folder and the other hanging loosely at his side. For several seconds as the excitement in his eyes slowly dulled, he said nothing. Then clearing his throat, he pursed his sinfully full lips. "Do you want me to cancel your ticket Scully?"

Pushing away from her perch against his desk, Scully flicked her eyes away from his face, as she turned her glance settled on the poster on the wall. 'I WANT TO BELIEVE' it proclaimed in capital letters. Slowly she breathed in and out several times before squaring her shoulders. "No Mulder." She replied. "Let's go chase your wild goose...uh I mean Bigfoot."

Mulder's smile lit up his face and Scully wondered yet again, why it was that she could never say no to this man.

They decided to meet each other at the airport, a decision that Scully heartily regretted as she stood in the middle of the short-term parking lot, exchanging names and insurance details with the driver of the car that had ploughed into the rear of her vehicle. "I'm sorry, Markham, I have a flight to catch. I'm sure my insurance company will be in contact with you regarding the repairs."

The slight bespectacled man standing in front of her nodded his agreement. "Yes, yes, I'm sure that will be alright, I feel however that I should offer my apologies for my lack of attention. Such an unfortunate way to meet, don't you think?" A pudgy hand was thrust out in Scully's direction and she had no choice but to grasp it, he wrapped his fingers tightly around hers, keeping hold of her hand long past the point of being polite. Subtly, Scully extracted her hand wishing she could wipe away the clammy sweat now coating her palm.

Floyd Markham tightly clutched the paper with Scully's details in his other hand as his eyes roamed over her dainty features, and he had to consciously pull himself back from licking his lips. "Dana, may I call you that?"

Scully regarded the man warily, his bland face giving no hint of his motives. Feeling decidedly uncomfortable, she edged away. "Mr. Markham, I must go before I miss my flight."

"You must let me make it up to you, maybe I could call you when you return?"

"No, that's not necessary, the insurance will take care of everything." Scully reached into her vehicle and pulled out her bags.

"Let me take those for you Dana."

Angered that the weasely man had taken the liberty of using her first name, Scully forced a polite smile as she tightened her grip on her belongings. "Thank you for offering Mr. Markham but I can manage." She said through gritted teeth. Sparing one last look at her newly damaged car, she turned her back on the annoying man.

A proprietary smile on his face, Markham called out as she moved quickly away. "Maybe we'll meet again Dana."

Not if I have anything to do with it. Scully muttered under her breath.

Markham watched as she walked out of sight; he fingered the paper she had given him. Fate had given him a sign and he knew that she was meant to be his. "Dana Scully, a pretty name to match a pretty woman." He mused. "Oh yes, I just know that we are going to meet again."

Scully's Apartment Complex.
5th June.

Hoisting the strap of her overnight bag onto her shoulder, Scully trudged wearily towards her buildings entrance. A nice long soak in a warm bath was just what the doctor ordered, she thought. It might also put her in a more forgiving frame of mind for when her partner rang. She snorted in a most unladylike manner as she came to the realization that she was expecting her partner to call her.

Wondering just when she had got to know the man so well that she could predict his actions, she didn't notice there was something leaning up against her apartment door until she kicked it with the toe of her shoe.

Uttering an exclamation of surprise when she saw a bouquet of flowers propped up against her door, Scully bent to pick them up, smiling as the wrapping revealed pink carnations, one of her favorite flowers.

She entered her apartment, dropping her bags on the couch; she pulled the small envelope off the wrapping and opened it, curious as to who had sent her flowers. The unsigned missive contained two words. Scully blinked as she read the simple 'I'm Sorry' printed on the card.

The first person to come to mind that would be apologizing was Mulder. After the last forty-eight hours, Scully thought he should also pay her dry cleaning bills, and throw in a new pair of shoes to replace the ones she'd been forced to throw away in Chehalis.

Thoughtfully fingering the dainty pink petals, she moved to the kitchen and took down the cut crystal vase from the cabinet. She arranged the flowers to her liking and then looked around her apartment for the best place to display them. The low coffee table in the living room caught her eye and moving a couple of magazines aside, she placed the vase prominently in the center. Heaving a sigh as she sank onto the couch, Scully eyed her luggage with some misgiving. Normally unpacking would not take very long, her careful attention to how the clothes went into the suitcase made it easier once she returned home.

Her gaze moved back to the flowers on the table, hopefully someone had a guilty conscience, she mused as she began emptying her bags. Gingerly she removed a plastic bag that contained several items of clothing and put it to one side, wondering how much extra she was going to have to pay her long suffering dry cleaner just to get them to open the bag, let alone try and remove the odor and the stains from the contents.

Rainbow Falls National Park.
A Day Earlier.

"Oh my God." Scully blanched as she pressed a glove-covered hand against her nose.

"Yeah." Mulder agreed circling around behind his partner in the small grassy clearing.

"Yeah, is that all you've got to say." Disbelief colored Scully's retort.

"Well...yeah." Mulder shrugged.

"Mulder, this is disgustingly gross."

"Come on Scully, I'm sure you've smelt worse things during an autopsy."

"This would rate higher than anything I've come across."

"Are you telling me you have a scale of grossness Scully?" Mulder's eyes gleamed.

She gave her partner a look, which was resolutely ignored. "I don't normally end up ankle deep whatever this stuff is, when I'm doing an autopsy."

"Say it after me...Bigfoot shit..."

"This is not Bigfoot sh...!" Scully took a cautious breath to calm herself. "There is no way that you are going to convince me that this is the droppings of an imaginary creature. Mulder."

"Scully, we have eyewitnesses."

"Mulder, we have a busload of elderly tourists who all agree they saw something on the side of the road in the dark, we have a couple of hikers who probably indulged in more alcohol than they did in hiking. We have an eighty-four year old man who has had his trash can knocked over and we have a pile of..."

"Bigfoot shit." Mulder supplied with a cheesy smile.

"...droppings from an unspecified creature." Scully turned from where she was gamely rubbing her shoes against a clump of grass. "Nothing definitive, the only evidence you have has holes big enough to sail a navy destroyer through." She peered wanly at her nearly new footwear and wrinkled her nose before crouching down in front of the offending mass. "Besides, look at this." Grabbing a long twig, Scully poked at the 'proof'. I can see two distinct types of faeces here. Did you bring any evidence bags?"

"Uh yeah, but I'm not putting that in my backpack." Mulder grimaced.

"You don't have to, I'll let you carry it."

"Wow Scully, how thoughtful of you."

"Isn't it, I must admit I thought the same thing when you let me stumble into it in the first place."

"Hey you can't blame me because you weren't watching where you were walking."

"Shut up Mulder and hold the bag open."

It had rained the night before and a brittle frost had frozen the raindrops to the grass and leaves. Kneeling on the cold ground, Scully felt the dampness seep through the material of her jeans and took slight comfort in the fact that her partner was faring the same. With samples taken and the bag being cautiously held at arms length by Mulder, the two agents retraced their steps back through the thick evergreen forest, this time both keeping a wary eye out for more deposits.

4th April.
1 pm.

"You're sure of that?"

From her spot on the corner of one of the lumpiest beds it had ever been her misfortune to come across, Scully looked up at the despondent tone to Mulder's voice.

"Yeah...well no not exactly...yeah, I understand...okay, thanks for your help."

"Not good news I take it." She enquired as she watched him snap his phone shut with more force than strictly necessary.

"You could say that, it seems that our 'sample' was an amalgam of several species of animal doodoo. Further more the two guys dead in the woods were chewed by the common brown bear. An overzealous fan of mine apparently had intimated it might be Bigfoot type teeth marks, when all the while he missed the bite radius common to the bear. Like me he wanted to 'believe.' Whoever went to the trouble of setting up this charade was resourceful enough to use only herbivores shit, but Dan or Stan or whatever his name is from the lab said it's not the first time he's come across this sort of prank." Mulder sank dejectedly into the chair behind him.

The urge to say 'I told you so' died a speedy death as Scully watched him bite down on his lower lip. An irrational impulse to comfort him rose within her. "So what now, you want to go and interview the witnesses again?"

A snort echoed throughout the tiny room. "What's the point, it's clear I was taken in by a hoax, why would I want to go and make a bigger fool of myself than I already have."

"You're not a fool Mulder."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence, but there's a hell of a lot of people who'd disagree with you."


"Just drop it please." He rose to his feet and ran his fingers roughly through his hair. "I'll ring the airport and find out when the next flight home is."

"Maybe we could do a bit of digging and find out who is responsible for setting up this whole ruse."

Mulder stopped in mid-dial and glanced at his partner. "I know what you're trying to do Scully and while I commend you for your thoughtfulness, I'd appreciate it if you left it alone."

Scully felt a hot blush of mortification stain her cheeks as she realized that Mulder had patently seen through her attempt to lift his spirits. Her shoulders tensed as she stood and made her way to the door. "Let me know when the flight is Mulder, I'll be packing." Resisting the inclination to slam the door on his condescending attitude, she instead left it slightly ajar and stalked the short distance to her own room trying hard to figure out why she felt so upset.

En-route back to Chehalis Airport.
5.30 pm.

Mulder took his eyes from the road and glance across at his silent partner, her face was in profile but he could see that the emotionless expression that she'd answered the door with was still present. He had relayed the details of the phone call from Deputy Roland of the Sheriff's Department. Apparently a couple of locals had been picked up cavorting around near the entrance to the national park. One had been wearing a poorly made fur suit while the other acted as lookout. Upon questioning, they admitted the hoax had been their idea and were doing it solely to stir up the tourists.

Scully's reaction had not been what he expected. A roll of her eyes and an aggrieved sigh that she had been proven right would have made him happy; instead all he received was a non-committal shrug and the door closed in his face. Keen to make amends, he had even offered to let her drive to the airport but she turned him down with a shake of her head and slid silently into the passenger seat.

Now her self-imposed silence was getting on his nerves. He knew he had done something wrong but for the life of him didn't know what it was or how to fix it. All attempts to make conversation were met with one-word answers and a continuation of the silence. Even after he'd deliberately tuned the radio to the most annoying station he could find, had not produced a reaction other than a slight tightening of her lips. He was getting crestfallen now, not because of the case but because of Scully's indifference to him.

Mulder drummed his fingers against the steering wheel and decided to bite the bullet. "Scully are you angry with me about something?"

"Hmm, what?" She turned slightly towards him, her face a mask of impassiveness. "I'm fine Mulder."

"That wasn't what I asked." He said tightly.

"Oh I'm sorry, I was thinking. What was your question?"

"I asked if you were angry with me."

Her eyes widened in surprise. "Angry with you, why do you think I would be angry with you?"

"Gee Scully I don't know." He ground his teeth together before replying. "Could it be that you haven't said more than three consecutive words to me since we left the motel. Or maybe because you're always saying I don't let you drive and yet when I offered before you just shut me out." He shifted slightly adjusting his position in the seat. "You tell me that this case has to be a hoax and I drag you out here anyway, when it turns out that you were right, there's no reaction, anybody else would be gloating to all and sundry about how they were right and 'ol spooky was wrong. Again. But you don't say anything." Mulder shrugged and his shoulders seemed to fold in on themselves. "You tell me what I'm supposed to think."

Scully's expression had run the gamut of several emotions while Mulder was speaking. She reached out and laid her hand gently on his arm. "I'm sorry Mulder, I didn't mean to give that impression, I don't...I mean, I've got something on my mind and I'm just trying to work through it."

Mulder's eyes softened as he looked down at her small hand resting on his sleeve. "Is there anything I can help you with?"

She withdrew her hand, placing it back in her lap. "You'll be the first one I come to." She smiled softly.

Scully's Apartment.
Same Evening.

"Mmm h'lo." Scully squinted at the clock beside her bed and sighed heavily.

"Hey it's me."

"I figured that, no-one else would ring at this time of night." She replied dryly pushing herself upright.

"What's the time, oh jeez I'm sorry Scully, I didn't realize it was so late. I'll talk to you in the morning."

"Mulder, I'm awake now, what did you want?"

"I was just typing up my report and I couldn't find the lab results, did I give them to you?"

"Mulder, why aren't you sleeping?"

"Well I just came back from a run and I was wide awake so I thought I'd get a head start on tomorrow."

Scully's eyes slid shut as she listened to her hyperactive partner chatter on. Surprisingly for all his manic intensity, his voice was quite soothing to listen to.

"You still there...Scully?"

She jerked awake and fumbled for the phone as it dropped away from her ear. "What...I'm sorry Mulder, what were you saying?"

A chuckle sounded through the connection. "I'll leave it for the morning, you go back to sleep okay."

"Mmm okay, that's a good idea, you get some sleep too won't you."

It wasn't a question and he smiled at her caring tone. For the thousandth time the thought that he didn't deserve her crossed his mind. "Sure thing partner, I'll see you in the morning."

Scully dropped the receiver back on the cradle as the disconnection tone sounded. Yawning loudly, she turned over on her side and closed her eyes.

6th June.
1 a.m.

Resignedly, Scully flopped over onto her back and stared through the darkness at the ceiling. It was all right for some people, they could drop off to sleep without any trouble at all, and she had witnessed Mulder doing that numerous times. One moment he would be talking up a storm, the next thing he was deeply asleep. How she wished after tossing and turning for nearly two hours that she had the same capability. Maybe she should get a recording of him talking, it wouldn't be the first time that the comforting cadence of his voice had lulled her to sleep.

Unfortunately, her brain kept going a mile a minute, ticking over on different tangents, worry about the state of her car and the hassle of having to use public transport was at the forefront, but she also kept thinking about the flowers that Mulder had sent her. For all his shortcomings he was extremely well mannered and almost old fashioned in his courtesy. She sighed as she pictured the plentiful times when he had opened doors for her, pulled out her chair on the odd occasion when they'd eaten lunch in the cafeteria. The habit he had of holding his hand near her back, hovering there just below waist level.

An image of his hands flashed across her mind, strong and agreeably shaped with nicely trimmed, always clean fingernails. His arms when not covered by his shirtsleeves or jacket were tanned from his many hours of running.
She knew a lot of the secretaries found him devastatingly good-looking. Snatches of conversations she had overheard in the amenities confirmed that. She remembered blushing vividly the day she overheard one of them refer to him as 'sex on legs'.

His thick brown hair was always glossy; thank goodness he didn't go in for the artificial gelled look. His striking hazel eyes whether framed behind his glasses or not, were always a harbinger of whatever emotion he was experiencing.
His nose was the most noticeable feature of his face, some would say it was too big and she had often heard Mulder himself refer to it that way, but as far as she was concerned, it suited him superbly.

She let another sigh slip past as she pictured the subtle mole on his jaw and then focused on what she believed was his best feature, his beautiful sensual mouth with those scandalously full lips. Whether pursed in a childish pout or open in one of his wonderfully infrequent smiles, they were perfect.
With a contented smile on her face, Scully slipped into sweet dreams that heavily featured her partner in various states of undress.

Haldane and Jonas.
Insurance Agents.
4th June.

"Dana Scully...Dana...S...c...u...l...l...y...let's see now." The quiet tapping on his keyboard ceased as Floyd Markham's eyes eagerly scanned the monitor. "Oh, this is interesting." A few more keystrokes and a wide smile broke across his face as a restricted access warning flashed on the screen. Another short burst of typing ensued before the information being sought appeared before him. "My, my, my, I never thought I would have found you in here." He mused.

Markham ardently scanned the dossier on the screen. "Hmm, picture doesn't do you justice sweet Dana, 'bout time they updated your photo I think." He scrolled further down the page. "FBI agent and a Doctor of Pathology, clever girl aren't you." Inserting a disc, he saved the information on the screen just as a heavy hand landed on his shoulder.

"Hey Floyd, whatcha doin'?" A low whistle emanated from the man behind him as he viewed the photo still displayed on the monitor. "Pretty girl, doesn't look like she belongs on the 'desperate and dateless' site though." The man chuckled spitefully.

Markham turned slightly as he reached to shut off the screen. "Leave me alone Nash."

"Now why the hell would I do that?" The nosy co-worker leaned against the desk, crossed his arms and regarded Markham with a grin. "You're way too much fun to annoy." With a smirk on his face he motioned towards the now dark computer. "So who's the girl?"

"No-one." Markham bit out his reply.

"Bit defensive there Floyd 'ol boy, that means she must be someone." Nash straightened and looked over the top of the partition. "Hey Williamson, Floyd's got himself a girlfriend." His voice was pitched at a level loud enough for most of the other occupants of the office to hear.

Williamson sauntered over, leaned against the partition and sniggered. "Really, what's she look like Markham?"

"Pretty little redhead, by the look of things." Nash replied.

"Yeah, show me!"

"Come on Floyd, show us her photo." Nash reached across Markham to activate the monitor.

Batting his arm away, Markham hissed out a warning. "Leave me alone!"

"What's wrong Floyd, too shy?" Nash winked at his fellow tormentor.

"That's enough boys." A cool voice joined in from behind them.

"Oh come on Julia, we're just having a bit of fun." Williamson announced in a put upon voice.

"It's a pity that you have to do it at someone else's expense, isn't it Jerry?"

The two jokers slouched off back to their respective workstations as Julia laid a gentle hand on Markham's back. "I hope it all goes well for you Floyd, I'm sure she's very pretty."

An enormous smile brightened the small man's face. "Oh she is Julia, I met her at the airport a few weeks ago, she's got the bluest eyes and her hair is such a beautiful shade of red."

"You haven't mentioned her before."

"She has to travel a lot for her job and we haven't really had much chance to get together. She's away at the moment and I thought I would arrange for some flowers, just to say welcome home."

"That's a lovely thought Floyd, just make sure you make your personal phone calls on your own time okay."

Markham nodded his compliance and turned back to his work.

X-Files Office.
6th June.
9.15 am.

His chin resting in his hand, Mulder stared dejectedly at the item in front of him. Had he vacillated too long and lost the opportunity forever, he wondered. The strength of his feelings had surprised him when Bernadette from reception had presented him with the delivery. His fingers itched to open the small white envelope and find out who possessed the courage that he so obviously lacked.

Wrenching himself away from his self-pitying thoughts, he stood quickly and began to pace back and forth, one hand running through his hair. He soon found that the physical exertion did not take his mind off his problems, because with every turn he caught sight of the cause of his distress out of the corner of his eye. He stalked back to his desk and grabbed the offending item, moving swiftly to the small anteroom and depositing it out of sight.

Slumping back into his chair, he searched his mind for a clue as to when Scully had started seeing someone. Suddenly he latched onto how subdued she had been on their last case, how he almost had to badger her into coming along on a trip that he knew if he had been honest with himself, was guaranteed to have been a colossal waste of time. Had she made other plans with someone, had his insatiable thirst for the strange and unexplainable cut even more into her personal life than he realised. He remembered her words in the car on the way back to the airport.

'I've got something on my mind and I'm just trying to work through it.'

He recalled how he'd offered to help her with the problem, only to be given a small smile and an assurance that he would be the first person she would come to.

But what for; the first to find out that she was involved with someone, the first to be introduced to the new man in her life, the first one to be informed that she wanted a life away from the X-Files.

As many times as he had told her that she would be better off away from him, he knew that he would be missing a vital part of his soul if she left.

He would miss the little looks she gave him, the particular quirk of her eyebrow when she was exasperated, the sigh of bliss when he handed her that first cup of coffee in the morning. Her contained rationalism dampening down his rampant emotionalism.

Her exceptionally blue eyes, her strength hidden behind the slight stature that always made him feel so protective. Her smile.

Oh, how he would miss her smile.

He lowered his head and clenched his hands in his hair. Stop it! He screamed silently.

Absently he perceived the ding of the elevator and steeled himself for her arrival.

Mulder lifted his head as the door opened admitting a thoroughly displeased Agent Scully. "Good morning." He said tentatively.

"I wish." Her briefcase was almost thrown at an empty chair as she struggled out of her coat. "Don't ever attempt to catch a taxi at eight am on a weekday morning Mulder, it just can't be done."

"What are you catching a taxi for?" He enquired in puzzlement.

"I told you Mulder, some idiot ran into me at the airport the other day, I had to arrange to have my car picked up, then I had to get to work."

Geez Scully, you should have reminded me, I would have picked you up."

His partner glanced at him. "Mulder you'd have to travel right past work and half an hour out of your way, it makes more sense for me to use public transport."

Elbows on his desk, Mulder tapped his fingertips together. "Your place tomorrow morning, seven am."


"No arguments Scully, it's not as if I'll have to make a conscious effort to get up any earlier. Besides as your supervisor, it's in my best interest for you to arrive at work without being stressed."

A smile graced Scully's face at her partner's logic. "Okay, you're the boss." She pulled her briefcase off the chair and sat down. "Now what's on the agenda for today?"

Mulder gritted his teeth as he stood and walked to the other room. "Uh, something came for you."

"For me?" Surprise etched Scully's voice and was duplicated on her face as Mulder returned with the bunch of red roses.

"Someone likes you."

"I don't who, it's not as if I'm seeing anyone."

Mulder's heart jumped. "You're not?"

"Of course I'm not Mulder, don't you think I'd tell you if I were."

"What's on the card?"

Scully reached in amongst the velvety blossoms and extracted the small envelope. She opened it and found a small verse.

'The rose is the most beautiful flower in the world,
The most beautiful woman deserves nothing less.'

The color heightened in her cheeks as she read the words written on the card, she raised her eyes up and met Mulder's inquisitive gaze. Maybe her speculation over the first bunch of flowers had been wrong she thought. There was no artifice in the look Mulder was giving her, just honest curiosity.

"So who is your shy Romeo?"

"There's no name." She held the card up for his inspection.

"He must be really bashful." Mulder stated after flicking his gaze over the writing. "Although, those words aren't really something you'd expect a shy person would write."

Scully turned the envelope over looking for the name of the florist. "Mainly Roses Florist. It's different."

"What is?"

"I received a bouquet last night, actually it was sitting outside my front door when I arrived home, different flowers, supplied by a different florist."

"Wow, whoever this guy is, he seems serious." Mulder observed. "Two bunches in two days and from my flower giving experience, pathetically woeful that it is, this lot don't look like they come cheap."

"But I don't know who would be sending me flowers, are you sure they were meant for me?"

Mulder shrugged his shoulder. "All I know is Bernadette from reception appeared first thing this morning and said they were for you. Why don't you ring the florist and find out?" He suggested.

Scully proceeded to do so. "Yes, my name is Dana Scully, I just received a bouquet of roses from your shop, unfortunately the card is unsigned and I was wondering if you could tell me who sent them...oh I see...yes I understand that's your policy, it's just that I was can...I'm sorry could you repeat that...yes, no you've been a great help." She replaced the phone and stood in silent contemplation.

"Well, don't make me guess Scully, I'm not very good at that."

"Why would you need to guess?" She replied with a hint of bitterness.

Mulder stared at his partner for a moment, noting the tightness around her mouth. "Um, have I done something wrong here?"

"The florist wouldn't give me a name, against their privacy policy..."

"A florist has a privacy policy?"

"Let me finish Mulder, they did say that the order was done over the internet and paid for by credit card, I think the woman felt sorry for me because she told me the initials of the person who ordered them."


"And the initials are F.M."

Mulder's eyes grew wide. "You think I'm the one who sent them?"

"I don't know what to think."

"Scully, it wasn't me, God knows it should have been, I wish I had sent you flowers, I should have sent you flowers years ago, but honestly, cross my heart, this has nothing to do with me apart from the fact that the initials are the same."


"From the bottom of my heart, I would never lead you on like that, I couldn't."

Scully looked into his eyes, if it were true that eyes were the window to the soul, then she was looking deep into the fundamental nature of Fox Mulder. I believe you." She whispered.

He gathered her into his arms, holding her tightly. "Thank you for your trust." He replied softly. After a few moments he released her slender frame. "Do you want to ring the other florist?"

Feeling oddly bereft after his brief embrace, Scully took a couple of steps away. "I don't recall the name."

"We can look it up, there can't be that many florists in DC can there?"

"You'd be surprised Mulder, flowers are a big business."

"Told you my flower giving experience was woeful."

Pulling the phone directory across the desk, they studied the several pages of listings. Suddenly Scully stabbed a finger at a name. "That's it, Pamper Her Florist."

"Why pamper her, what about the guys?"

His attempt at levity was met with an eyebrow and a request to pass the phone. Once connected with the business, Scully went through the same story, only this time she met with more success. "No there was no name on the card...yes, if it's not too much trouble." She held her hand over the mouthpiece. "They're just looking it up...yes I'm here. Uh huh, and did he order the flowers in person...over the internet...on that's all, thank you so much for your trouble."

The phone went back into the cradle, her hands went on her hips and the eyebrow hovered dangerously close to her hairline. "You've been a busy boy Mulder."

His jaw dropped.

Spinning on his heel, Mulder grabbed the phone and punched in a number, he waited for several rings before speaking. "Hey it's me, is Frohike there?"

Mulder sat down at his desk and ran his fingers through his hair in agitation before putting the phone onto speaker. "Hey Fro, can you do something for me?"

"Sure, whatcha want?"

"I need you to look up what transactions have been made on my credit card."

"Hoo boy, got yourself in a bit of financial strife have you?"

"No I haven't, I just want to check on something."

"Okay can do, which card?"


"All right, let's see here." Faint tapping could be heard over the open line before Frohike spoke again. "Hey man, what phone are you calling from?"

"Landline from the Hoover."

"That's cool. Hey, you've been busy, we've got electricity on the twenty-ninth May, subscription to..."

"Don't worry about that one." Mulder hastily interrupted.

"Oh right. Good morning Agent Scully." Amusement tinged the Gunman's tone.

"Good morning Frohike." She replied, giving Mulder a questioning look.

"Um, nothing more until fourth June, then there's one for Pamper Her Florist, gas on the fifth and Mainly Roses Florist on the same day. What's with the flower shops, some occasion you didn't tell me about?"

"No occasion Fro."

"I'm not liking what I'm hearing here Mulder, who you buyin' flowers for, if they're not for Agent Scully?"

"I'm not buying flowers for anybody, well I am I guess, only it's not me, at least not intentionally, although I should have..." Mulder dropped his head into his hands and trailed off into unintelligible muttering.

"Yeah okay, Scully, you still there?"

"I'm here."

"What's he goin' on about?"

She took a deep breath. "Someone has sent me two floral bouquets, no name on the card, but they have made it look like Mulder has paid for them."

"He has."

"Scully, I swear it wasn't me." Mulder protested.

"He's tellin' the truth." Frohike assured.

"You just said it was him, now you're saying it's not."

"What I meant is, although Mulder paid for them, he didn't send them."

"How do you know?" Scully questioned.

"Cause I know Mulder and sending flowers isn't his thing, it wouldn't even occur to him. Take a good look at him Scully, does he actually strike you as the type of guy who would buy anyone flowers."

Scully nodded her head. "I'd have to agree with you there."

"Gee thanks Fro, you are so good for my self esteem."

"Hey, got you out of trouble with the missus didn't I." An amused chuckle sounded over the line.

"Frohike!" Scully warned.

"Sorry, sorry. Listen Mulder; evidently someone's managed to get into your account, strange sort of trick to play on you though. Do you want me to fix it for you?"

"Can you find out who it was?"

"Not sure, I'll give it a go, but if he's clued up enough to get in, it's a sure fire bet that he didn't leave any evidence behind."

"Okay, do what you can, am I going to need to apply for a new card?"

"Hey this is me you're talking to, just remember I'm good at what I do."

"Not as good as me." Langly's muffled voice called.

"Shaddup you hippie."

The partners grinned at each other as the rivalry escalated verbally. "Bye Fro and thanks." Mulder hung up the phone; he came up out of his chair and around to Scully's side of the desk and took her hand. "Thank you too."

"What for?" She was bewildered.

"For believing me." He said simply.

Scully tightened her fingers in his grasp before pulling free. "It wasn't a hard thing to do." Stepping back, she settled in her chair and looked at him expectantly. "So what else have you got scheduled for today?"

Laughter dancing in his eyes, Mulder grinned widely and held out a file. "Have you ever heard of the Virginian Vampire?"


"Honest Scully, I swear, this is a legitimate case, VCS sent it down to us."

Scully rolled her eyes. "Oh brother."

En-route to Scully's apartment.
7th June.
6.30 pm.

"Penny for your thoughts." Mulder settled his eyes back on the road after a quick glance at his partner, who'd been silent for most of the trip.

At that particular moment, Scully was pondering the vagaries of life and how things had come to pass. She had always considered Mulder an intriguing person but apart from the initial fascination she'd felt at their first meeting, there had been no appeal whatsoever.

Or so she had tried to convince herself.

Now she was trying to figure out just when it was she had moved from regarding Mulder merely as a co-worker and friend, to someone she was deeply attracted to.

She realized that for some time now whenever they were together, she had been getting into the habit of taking sly little sideways glances at her partner, filling her mind with his profile. Catching a glimpse as he unconsciously licked his lips, imagining the body under the fine suit.

"Earth to Scully."

The amused timbre of his voice reached into her whirling thoughts. She blinked and looked up at him. "Huh?"

"Where have you been?" He waved his hand theatrically in front of her face, close enough for her to feel a slight breeze waft across her skin.

The question puzzled her for a moment until Mulder elaborated. "I've been talking to myself for the past few minutes and as much as I enjoy the sound of my own voice, it was beginning to get lonely in here."


"Hey, no need to apologize, the conversation although a little one-sided was riveting."

Scully stared at him, not knowing exactly how to reply.

"You know, if I didn't know better, I would think you were checking me out."

Her heart skipped a beat and her cheeks stung with humiliation. "Wh...what?" She blurted inanely. An intense panic filled her. Oh my God, he's noticed me watching him, she thought with dismay.

Mulder's voice turned serious as he realized how his words had affected her. "Geez Scully, I was only joking, I didn't mean to upset you."

Gamely trying to cover her mortification, Scully smiled weakly. "No't upset me Mulder, surprised me maybe."

Mulder took a quick glance at the rear-view mirror as he signaled the turn onto Scully's street, seconds later he pulled over in front of her building. "Oh, you had me worried there for a moment, I thought I'd really put my foot in it."

Having regained control of her thoughts, Scully narrowed her eyes; a little teasing was in order she thought. "Why would I want to check you out anyway Mulder, I would have thought you'd have had your fill at work."

"What do you mean?" There was genuine puzzlement in his tone.

"Oh come on, don't tell me that you haven't noticed how you get ogled by all the women from the secretarial pool?"

"Ogled! Me?"

"Yes, you. Although ogled may be the wrong word, I think undressing you with their eyes would be more appropriate."

"Uh Scully, you're kidding me aren't you, you're just getting back at me for that remark I made." Mulder pleaded.

"What's wrong? Most red-blooded men would kill to be the center of attention like that." Scully opened the car door and stepped out into the night.

"Not me."

She leaned down, trying not to notice how the interior light picked out the subtle colors in his hair. "They're not your type huh?"

"Scully, there's only one person whose attention I want to be the center of, unfortunately I'm not their type."

An expression of surprise etched its way onto Scully's face as he turned to her with a desperately vulnerable look. "See you tomorrow okay."

Rendered speechless, she stepped back to the pavement as he pulled out onto the street. Only as she watched the taillights disappear into the darkness did she recover her senses enough to comprehend that tomorrow was Saturday.

Scully mulled over his enigmatic words as she made her way to her apartment. Who was he talking about? If not one of the secretaries, then someone from his past whom she hadn't met. She pulled up short as she caught sight of yet another bunch of flowers lying outside her door. Reaching down, she carefully picked up the bouquet; unerringly her fingers went straight to the small card nestled amongst the blossoms.

'White for purity, like my love for you'

As soon as she entered her apartment, Scully dropped the flowers on the table and grabbed her phone. It was answered immediately by a recorded message.

"You can make a selection from the following in order to leave your message, as the person you are phoning is currently unavailable."

Scully listened to the automated voice with more than a hint of exasperation, obviously Mulder did not have his phone switched on, either that or the battery was flat again. She let the receiver drop back into the cradle and picked up the bouquet, noting that again it was from yet another florist. She would have to wait until tomorrow them to see if the person sending them had used Mulder's name again.

She unwrapped the flowers; thrusting them with little care into another vase she left them in the middle of the table. Whoever was sending the flowers was beginning to annoy her, she wasn't interested in starting a relationship with someone who kept their identity secret, and in fact she wasn't interested in a relationship with anyone other than Mulder.

Now all she needed to do was build up the courage to tell him.

As her mind began to run through a litany of 'what ifs' she decided that a nice relaxing soak in the bath was just what the doctor ordered, she chose some bath oil and added a fragrant candle before starting to fill the tub. As the steaming scented water passed the halfway point, she decided to try ringing Mulder at home. Pulling her robe snugly around herself she carried the phone into the bathroom and dialed his number.


"Hi, it's me. Where's your cell phone?"

"Dunno, it's around somewhere. Why?

"Because I tried to call you and I got an unavailable message." Scully heard the slight creak of leather as Mulder moved.

"Umm just a minute." A few seconds of silence ensued before Mulder spoke again. "Huh, battery's flat."

"Gee that's strange, when was the last time you charged it."

"Now you're asking, I don't know."

"Well fix it Agent Mulder."

"You'd make a good A.D. Scully, start scowling like Skinner does and you'll have all us mere special agents shaking in our shoes."

"I won't need to scowl Mulder, I'll just carry a big stick." Mulder's snort of laughter brought a smile to her face.

"So, what're you ringing about, I'm sure it wasn't just to regale me with your fantasies about being a disciplinarian."

Scully reached over to halt the flow of water. "I got another bunch of flowers tonight."

"Another one!"

"Mm hmm, left outside the door. Different florist again."

"Any note?"

"Yes, this one gave me a creepy feeling though."

"Why what did it say?"

Scully relayed the message and waited for Mulder's opinion.

"Sounds like he's serious."

"Too bad, if he sends me another bunch, they are going straight in the trash."

"Sounds like you're serious too." Mulder observed.

Scully put one bare foot up on the edge of the tub, dipping her toes in the bubbles. "I can handle being sent flowers, but it peeves me off when the sender doesn't have the gumption to reveal who they are. I hope I'm not supposed to be impressed because I'm certainly not." She snapped the last few words out bitterly.

"Hey whoa, calm down." Mulder urged.

"I'm calm."

"No you're not."

"All right, I'm not calm, I'm pissed, is that better?"

"Well it's honest at least."

Scully took a deep breath. "I'm sorry Mulder, I shouldn't use you to vent my aggravation."

"Hey what are partners for, I'm sure I've done my fair share of venting. You want me to come over, you can show me how you'd wield that stick."

It was Scully's turn to laugh. "Thanks for the offer, but I think I'll pass."

"Good now go and relax, read a book or something and forget about it." He instructed.

"Mmm, I'm just about to get into a nice warm bath."

Scully heard a muffled sound before Mulder spoke again. "That's the ticket, I'll pick you up tomorrow morning okay?"

"Tomorrow's Saturday."

"Uh it is? Yeah of course, I knew that, well give me a call if you need a lift anywhere, otherwise I'll see you Monday morning."

"Okay, I'll let you know." Scully placed the phone on the vanity thinking how much better she felt after talking with Mulder. She hung up her robe and sank into the deliciously hot water, letting her worries evaporate with the steam.

Mulder's Apartment.
Same time.

The disconnection signal buzzed in his ear for several moments before Mulder realized he was still holding his phone. He ran a hand across his mouth and leaned back on the couch. Such an innocent remark and it almost had been his undoing.

He picked up the TV remote and scanned through the channels, stopping on some news programme. He stared vacantly at the screen, while his mind threw up image after image of Scully. He grunted and shifted on the couch. She's not interested, you haven't got a hope, you're not her type. He kept repeating the words in an effort to convince himself and concentrated on the TV instead. Commercials had replaced the news and he found himself inordinately interested in the advertisement for Dove bath gel. He knew he was in deep when his mind substituted a naked Scully reclining in the bath lathering herself in the creamy foam. Groaning aloud, he adjusted himself more comfortably and thumbed the TV into silence. He decided to go for a run hoping the exercise would clear his mind and ease his current predicament.

Outside Scully's Apartment.
Same day.

Floyd Markham ran his fingers over the photo in his hand. God, she was beautiful, he knew he had to have her. He wondered what she thought of the flowers he had been sending. He had decided to use her partner's name when he had found the news photo of the two of them. Why he had to stand that close to Dana was a mystery, he was only a co-worker, not her lover for goodness sake. Markham had made up his mind to make the man pay for his impertinence. Hacking into his bank account was just the beginning.

What a pathetic name, he thought. Really, Fox Mulder, who in their right mind would name their kid Fox, he snorted in disparagement. He certainly wasn't Foxy to look at; so damn tall that Dana would have to crane her neck to look at him, and he possessed a face with that huge stupid nose that only a mother could love.

Markham was busy heaping vilification upon the man when a vehicle pulled up in front of Dana's apartment. He was delighted when Dana stepped out of the passenger side, but a frown crossed his face when she leaned back down to speak to the driver. Their conversation was short and Dana had a strange look on her face when she stood away from the car. He watched as the car drove away and Dana made her way into her apartment building. Mentally, he pictured her expression when she found the bouquet he'd ordered earlier in the day. He had specifically requested highly perfumed blooms for this bouquet so that Dana could enjoy their beauty and fragrance.

He closed his eyes and visualized her carefully arranging the fragile flowers to best show them off and placing them in her bedroom. He liked that thought, his flowers in Dana's bedroom; every time she passed them she would stop and smell them and wished she knew who it was who had sent them. Markham smiled, she would find out soon enough, when the time was right, when she was ready, he would reveal himself.

9th June.
Mulder's Apartment.

The room wasn't big enough for the amount of pacing he needed to do; Mulder decided on his sixth, or was it seventh trip around his apartment. He stopped again as he passed the phone, his hand hovering above it before he dropped it back to his side and resumed his relentless motion. He didn't have the nerve, pure and simple; he didn't want to open himself up to being hurt. Once more as he made another circuit, he stopped next to the phone; his brain was telling him to go for it, but his rapidly pounding heart was holding him back.

He'd spent the best part of the morning trying to decide if he was making the biggest mistake of his life, or missing out on the best thing that could ever happen to him. Rubbing his sweat slick palms on his jeans, he finally took hold of his courage and tapped in Scully's number. He listened to it ring and was just about to hang up when there was an answer.


"Hey it's me." He smiled.

"Hi me, what can I do for you?"

"Um, I was just thinking...I mean I was wondering...if ah...seeing as how it' a nice day...maybe we could..."

"Yes." Scully broke into his rambling.

"Huh?" Mulder's brow creased in a frown.

"Yes, it's a nice day and I would love to."

"But you don't even know what I was going to ask you." Mulder was perplexed.

"I know, but if I waited for you to finish, then this nice day would be almost over and I'd never find out would I?" The smile in her voice was obvious.

"I suppose."

"Good, I'll be ready in forty minutes."

"You will?"

"Yes Mulder, I presume you are going to pick me up aren't you?"

"I am? I mean, yes I am." He tried for an assertive tone but had the feeling he'd failed miserably.

"Good, I'll see you then."

"Okay." Mulder stared at the phone in bemusement wondering what had just happened. His intention had been to ask Scully if she would like to go on a picnic, he had botched it completely, not even getting the words out but somehow she'd agreed. Suddenly he remembered her words, he dropped the phone and sprinted into his bedroom, pulling his shirt off as he moved. God, he'd never be ready in time, he needed a shower and a shave. His t-shirt wouldn't pass muster, and neither would his jeans with the remains of last night's pizza splattered across one leg.

He ducked into the bathroom, barely waiting for the water to get warm before he stepped under the spray. Three minutes later he'd completed the fastest shower in history, decided to forgo a shave; hoping that he looked more suave than scruffy. In another five minutes he had donned fresh jeans and a moss green Henley, combed his hair in some semblance of tidiness and was on his way out the door.

Thirty-seven minutes after ending his phone call he pulled up outside Scully's building. He curbed his compulsion to jog up to the entrance choosing instead to saunter casually, hopefully giving his heart enough time to stop its manic beating. Within seconds of him knocking on the door, Scully stood before him, dressed similarly in a peach colored sweater, jeans and sneakers.

"Hi." She smiled, gesturing for him to enter.

Mulder walked into the room and turned, his heart had begun to palpitate rapidly as soon as he had laid eyes on his diminutive partner and he had to consciously control his breathing.

"So where're we going?" Scully asked brightly.

Mulder swallowed noisily. "Um, I thought a picnic."

"Ooh lovely, I haven't been on a picnic in ages. Do you have enough food?" She moved past him to pick up a jacket draped over the back of the couch.

"Food?" He croaked.

Scully turned and looked at her bewildered partner. "Yeah you know, it's what you eat when you go on a picnic."

"Oh of course, the food, actually I thought we'd grab something while we're out. My pantry isn't up to supplying even the bare essentials for a picnic." Mulder adopted a sheepish expression. "That's of course if it's all right with you."

"Sounds fine." Scully grabbed the travel rug that she'd placed on the couch earlier and headed for the door.

The two agents approached Mulder's car unaware that they were being closely observed, their watcher paying very strong attention to every move. He sneered as Mulder held the door open for Scully, biting out a crass remark as the agent walked around the rear of the car to the driver's side.

"Now where are you off to pretty Dana?" He mused as he pulled out into traffic after them. There wasn't a great deal of vehicles on the road and Markham had no trouble keeping Mulder's car in sight. When they drove into Woodley Park, he dropped back so as not to raise any suspicion.

"I heard they have a weekend market around here somewhere." Scully spoke up as Mulder turned into the parking bay and they exited the car.

"Really, do you want to have a look or shall we have lunch first?"

Scully gazed towards the center of the park where several vendor carts were set up. "I'm all for having lunch first, I'm sure I can smell hot dogs."

Mulder sniffed the air theatrically. "I do believe you're right, what excellent investigation techniques you have Agent Scully." He gestured for her to step in front of him. "Lead the way, let's see if we can track down a suspect."

Half an hour later found Mulder sprawled on the blanket under a shady tree watching Scully lick her fingers. The sight of her tongue flicking in and out of her mouth was doing amazing things to his body and without conscious thought he blurted out her name.


Looking up from where she was chasing a splash of sauce on her knuckle, she was surprised by the emotion in his voice. Mulder scrambled to his knees and crawled across the blanket to where she sat.

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing...everything...I've got something I need to say." He said earnestly.

Scully tipped her head to one side and gave him a curious look. "I'm listening."

Mulder took a deep breath, wishing his heart would stop trying to escape his chest. "The last few years have been hard on the both of us, you more so than me, your health, your family, your future, they've all been irrevocably affected because of your association with me." Tenderly he tucked a strand of flame red hair behind one ear before continuing. "I have considered you a valued colleague for the length of our partnership and a friend for the bulk of it. In fact I regard you as my best friend." Mulder climbed to his feet and pulled Scully up after him, placing his hands on her shoulders he bent until he was looking directly into her eyes. "I would like to explore the possibility of you and me becoming…us."

Scully's eyes went wide. " you...?"

"Sshh." He placed a finger gently against her lips. "Let me say this before I lose my nerve." He ran his fingers slowly down her arms and took her smaller hands in his. "For the longest time I've been trying to work up the courage to put into words how I feel about you. I've always thought that I'd have no chance with you, that you were so far out of my orbit I may as well have been on a different planet." His weak attempt at humor brought a soft smile to her lips.

Taking a deep breath to calm the pounding of his heart, Mulder gathered his resolve for one all out effort. "Scully I love you, I think I loved you from the moment that you walked into the office all those years ago, I just didn't figure it out until recently. I want to have a relationship with you above and beyond what we have at work. I want to go to sleep with you in my arms and wake up the same way. I want to be able to look into your eyes and know that you're mine."

Scully lowered her gaze to their joined hands. "Mulder, I don't..." She was interrupted by him drawing in a sharp breath; she could see what he was thinking by the emotions swirling in his eyes. With a twinkle in her eye, she gazed up at him. "You know it's a good thing that you can't injure yourself by jumping to conclusions." She said wryly. "Now let me finish."

Scully ran the tip of her tongue over her top lip before speaking again. "I had no idea that you felt this way, you hid it very well, I'm flattered that you think about me like that and I want you to know that the feeling is mutual. In fact your timing is incredible, I've been trying to build up enough courage to tell you the same thing."

Mulder stared at her as she rubbed her fingers along the inside of his wrist. It was sending tingles into all places south. "Is that why, you know when...the other day." He breathed in deeply. "You said you had something on your mind, were thinking about us?"

Scully simply nodded.

Mulder let his breath go in an explosive exhalation and wrapped his arms around his smaller partner; burying his face in her hair he repeated her name over and over.


"Oh God Scully."


"Hmm?" He lifted his face away from her hair.



"Kiss me."

"Oh yes Scully, yes!"

And he did, gently at first, but within seconds their contact grew deeper, more intense. Their eyes closed as their tongues dueled with each other. Mulder's hands came up and framed Scully's face. Scully's hands went down and roamed in exploration as far as she could reach.

A moan emanated from deep within Mulder's chest. "God Scully, I...I feel..."

"You feel absolutely perfect to me." She broke through his disjointed words.

His finger traced a path over her cheek as he looked deeply into her flawless blue eyes, humbled by the love that he found there. "You have just made me the happiest man in the world." His expression turned somber. "But there's still a part of me that's saying I don't deserve this, I haven't earned this happiness."

It was Scully's turn to place a finger against his lips. "Don't listen to that part, it's wrong." She laid her hand gently over his heart. "Listen to this part."

A tremulous smile graced his face as he clasped Scully tightly again. "I never thought I'd ever be in this exalted position." He whispered with barely restrained emotion.

"Or me." Scully settled into his embrace. "You're a good man Mulder, I know at times I have been at a loss to understand your passion, but your selflessness and your empathy for others, the very things that attracted me in the first place are traits that aren't often found in people these days. I think that knowing you has made a huge difference in my life and I'm thankful for it. I feel rich. Being with you here in your arms."

Mulder leaned down and brushed his lips across hers just as a faint shiver rocked her small frame. "You okay Scully?"

"Mmm, I'm fine, just getting a bit chilly in the shade." She glanced longingly at the sun washed path a few feet away.

"Come and walk in the sunlight with me then." Mulder leaned down and scooped up the rug, shaking the loose leaves away before folding it over his arm. "We've spent too many years in the shadows, it's time we stepped out into the light." He took her hand and they walked together for the first time as a couple.

Unseen by the two agents, a figure stood silently in the shadow of a large tree, his body rigid and his fingers clenched into fists of rage. He watched as they strolled away with an untroubled air. How dare he, Markham fumed mutely. How dare he touch Dana in such a familiar way. She was his and no one else was going to lay a hand on her. His anger knew no bounds, his blood sang with the desire for revenge, the feeling so strong he could almost taste it. He would make this man pay for his audacity, oh how Fox Mulder was going to pay.

"Tell me Mulder." Scully said as they walked. "You said before 'for the longest time'." She looked up at him inquiringly. "Just how long are you talking about?"

Mulder tightened his clasp on her hand. "Do you remember when you first came down to the basement, you knocked on the door?"

"Oh yes, and what did I hear, 'nobody down here but the FBI's most unwanted'. What a statement that was."

"Well, you walked into the office, I looked up and you introduced yourself. You had me at 'I'm Dana Scully'."

"That was quite a while ago, what brought on this sudden declaration?"

"The roses."


"Well they were the trigger." Mulder considered his words. "After seeing those, I realized that if I didn't say something, then there was a good chance that someone else would and then I'd lose the best thing that could ever possibly happen to me." His lower lip quivered with barely held back emotion.

She looked up at him, her brilliant blue eyes swimming with happiness. "Oh Mulder."

Scully felt like her spirit had been set free; she found it almost impossible to believe that Mulder felt the same way that she did. How much time had they wasted because they were both so unsure of the other's feelings. She glanced down at their intertwined fingers and then up at Mulder's loving face. Anyone looking at him would see someone with a calm and somewhat bemused expression; she knew however, that the small boyish smile that graced his face was the Mulder equivalent of a full-blown grin on anyone else.

For the next couple of hours they walked hand in hand, moving gradually throughout the many varied stalls set up in the center of Woodley Park. Some of the wares displayed had Scully interested, some of them they walked straight past until they came to a colorful booth over by one side. Mulder grinned widely as he picked up the item that had caught his eye and showed it to Scully.

"It looks so lifelike." She said as she ran a hand over it.

"It's an unusual choice." Mulder replied studying it intently.

"The eyes have the same air of curiousness and devilment about them."

"Devilment?" Mulder protested.

"Yes, it's almost as if it's looking for trouble." She smirked, as she rubbed her face over the soft fur.

Mulder gestured the stallholder over and asked the price, after a short conversation about his goods he handed over some cash and turned to Scully. "Well, you are now the proud owner of your very own fox."

She giggled as she held the stuffed animal up and compared it to her partner. "I've already got my very own fox." She smiled softly. "This little guy has nothing on the original but he'll do in a pinch." Her words had the desired affect and she closed her eyes as Mulder tenderly brushed her lips with his own.

"Just don't bring him into work." He said gruffly once they parted.

"Oh no, foxy here is going to have pride of place in my bed." She teased. "In fact I don't think I'll ever let him out of it." The hint of challenge was evident in the eyebrow that she raised.

Regardless of the fact that they were in public, in a crowded park with swarms of people milling around them, Mulder pulled Scully to him in a heartfelt embrace. "I've been bewitched." He murmured into her ear hugging her even closer to his chest. "By a flame-haired blue-eyed beauty and I've never been more content in my whole life." All of a sudden he registered that there was a presence between them and he took a step back eyeing the toy that Scully held. He gave it a poke with his finger. "Do I have a rival for your affections?"

The love that she felt for this man warmed her thoroughly and she slipped in under his arm almost purring in happiness, as he looped his arm about her shoulders. "Never." She vowed. "I'm a one man woman."

The two agents ambled on together through the warm afternoon sun, their uncommunicative follower hanging back out of sight until they had cleared the next stall. He approached the booth where Mulder had made his purchase, his eyes alighting on the same item. A cruel smile crossed his face as he picked another of the soft toys up; quickly paying for his acquisition he scanned the faces around him until he spied his quarry. Satisfied that they hadn't become aware of his presence he tucked the small animal under his arm and headed out of the park to his car, his mind filled with thoughts of how he was going to obtain his vengeance.

After investigating all the market had to offer, Mulder and Scully had continued walking taking in the sights and sounds of people enjoying a Sunday afternoon in the park. Scully reflecting with wonder how different her day had turned out from what she was expecting when she woke up this morning.

For his part, Mulder was quietly enjoying the warmth of Scully's hand tightly clasped in his musing over how much time had passed them by while they had both been bumping up against their own fears over what the other thought. He looked down at the woman by his side, a soft smile creeping over his features. She was holding 'foxy' loosely in her free arm unconsciously rubbing one of his ears between her finger and thumb.

Something in him tingled at the notion of being the recipient of that same almost erotic caressing motion. Not yet, he thought, they needed to take this slow and steady, learn how to be a couple before letting the passion sweep them away.

Scully felt his gaze and looked up. "What?" She asked.

"Nothing." Mulder replied tucking her arm snugly through his. "Just thinking."

"Looks like they're deep and meaningful thoughts." She came to a stop and turned until she was facing him, still holding his hand. "Mulder, we need to talk."

"Yeah." He agreed puffing out a heavy breath. "Do you think this is going to be a pizza talk or a Chinese talk?"

"Hmm, Chinese definitely, especially if it's from the Golden Century."

"My my, someone's got an appetite." Mulder grinned. "It must be love."

Scully curled her finger at him gesturing until Mulder bent closer. She reached up and kissed him soundly before whispering in his ear. "I think you're right." She loved the sight of him as he shivered when she let one fingernail gently graze his earlobe. The astonished expression on his face made her break into a grin, before she tucked herself back under his arm and snuggled against his strong warm body.

Scully's Apartment.
Ten Days Later.

The flight from Salem North Carolina had been tiring for them both and the short walk through the concourse of the airport had almost been Mulder's undoing. The invasive procedures the doctors had been forced to use to clear the tobacco beetle larvae from his lungs had caused an equal amount of damage to that of the infestation.

Mulder's breathing was labored, there was a rattle in his chest with each breath, his movements were sluggish and he barely noticed that Scully had driven them both straight to her apartment.

Scully pushed the door shut behind her as she eyed her partner who had stopped in the middle of the room, she moved up and placed a hand in the center of his back, rubbing gently as he started to sway slightly. "Tired?" She asked softly.
Mulder nodded, before shrugging his coat off and dropping it onto the couch. His body followed, collapsing in a jumble of gangly limbs. Rolling his head against the back of the couch, he closed his eyes in fatigue.

"Mulder, I want you in bed."

It was a physical effort to open his eyes halfway, but he managed it and even squeezed out a half-hearted leer. "Ooh Scully, straight to the point." He croaked with what little voice he had left.

"You can put that out of your mind right now mister." Scully shook her finger at him. "No hanky panky until your breathing is better."

Amusement crinkled the corners of Mulder's eyes. "Scully said hanky panky." He wheezed. He was beyond exhausted, He knew too that Scully had gone through her own version of hell, her constant bedside vigil and worry when it looked at one stage like he wouldn't pull through, taking it's toll on her loving features and he felt a sharp pang of guilt that he had put those lines under her eyes. Again.

"Yes I did and now I'm going to say it's time you got some rest."

"I can rest here." Truth be told, Mulder didn't think he had the energy to get up, let alone make the seemingly monumental trek to her spare room.

"My couch isn't long enough for you and you know it." She held out a hand to offer him assistance.

Mulder struggled to his feet. "I'm so tired of being in bed." He grimaced against the soreness of his throat and the tight fist lodged in his chest.

"I know." Scully sympathized. "But at the moment, it's the best place for you." She led the way into her bedroom and helped him to strip down to his boxers and t-shirt. He had almost no strength to speak of still. For a few moments she just held him, reveling in the warmth and feel of a live Mulder wrapped around her body, so grateful that he was here with her. Not quite sound but time and her loving care would heal him. However and whatever it took.

Mulder sank almost immediately back against the pile of pillows Scully had placed behind him. As much as he didn't want to go to sleep, his body had other ideas. The gentle motion of Scully's hand as it brushed through his hair sent him further towards surrender. He felt the light touch of her lips against his and he cracked his eyes open.

"Think of that as a down payment." She winked. "With plenty more to come." The thought of the two of them together in the same bed wrapped in each other's arms was enough to carry him over the edge, a tiny smile gracing his features.

Outside Scully's Apartment
Same Time.

Floyd Markham frowned in puzzlement as he watched Dana and Fox Mulder move slowly towards the entry. He wondered just what had been happening, Dana had been away from her apartment for over a week, that alone had nearly made him climb the walls with craziness and now it looked like that partner of hers was ill.

As far as Markham was concerned, it was probably no more than he deserved. He glanced down at the brown paper package on the seat next to him. He'd been busy while Dana was away and now all he had to do was get it delivered to her apartment. He was reasonably sure that the little surprise he had created for Mr. Fox Mulder would make the man sit up and take notice. Maybe then he would realize that he couldn't just push his way into someone else's relationship, without accepting that there would be some sort of serious fallout.

Making a decision on what his method of delivery would be, he gave Dana's front window a longing look before driving off to complete his plan.

Scully's Apartment.
Next Day.

"Yes sir, that is my major know what he's like, if he's in the general vicinity of the office, he will find a way of getting there." Scully listened to Skinner's suggestion and then gave a delighted laugh. "I don't think he will appreciate being handcuffed to the bed sir...yes, I have a place in mind...certainly, once I have all the details I will let you know." After thanking Skinner for his concern, she finished the phone call and moved quietly back to her bedroom.

She stood in the doorway and observed her sleeping partner; he lay slightly over on his left side, his arm looped around the plush soft animal, hand curled up by his chin, the other stretched out across the bed as if in search of something. How she wished she had film in her camera, talk about a Kodak moment. Scully stifled a yawn, almost giving into the desire to curl up next to him. Each time she had woken him so he could take the various medications that had been prescribed, she had lain awake for some time after listening to his breathing, alert for even the slightest hint that he was having trouble. She was so thankful that he had survived this latest assault on his health. Who would have thought that looking into the suspicious death of a government whistleblower would leave her partner near death himself, from genetically modified tobacco beetles.

She felt as though the last six months had been one crisis after another, he had been bitten by rattlesnakes, his emotional health had taken a battering when his mother had committed suicide, then he'd been almost drowned in a bathtub by a Jekyll and Hyde suburban housewife and now this.

Scully's resolve to make sure Mulder regained his health was formidable, his recovery back to his usual robust physical condition was her major concern and she was determined to do whatever was needed. Quietly, she pulled the bedroom door closed until it was almost shut, ensuring that the phone calls she had to make did not disturb Mulder's sleep.

Some two hours later, she replaced the phone back into the charging unit. Everything was set; she had managed to book an entire two weeks at a cottage at Ocean Beach in Maryland. The warm moist air should prove most beneficial to Mulder's healing lungs and there was plenty there to keep him occupied. She leaned back on the couch, thoughts of romantic walks along the shoreline and nights spent cuddled in each other's arms drifting through her head. He needed this. They both needed this.

A sharp rapping on her door caught her attention and she flicked a look towards the bedroom hoping that the noise had not disturbed Mulder. Scully peered through the peephole. "Who is it?"

"Courier ma'am, I have a parcel for a Miss Dana Scully."

"Yes, just a minute." Scully turned the lock and opened the door.

"Dana Scully?"

"Yes, that's me."

"I need your signature here please." The courier held out a clipboard.

Scully took the parcel, noting the typewritten address and that there was no return address. Thanking the man, she closed the door and took the package into the kitchen. Just as she was about to open it, she heard Mulder stirring.

"Hey." She said softly, entering the bedroom and seating herself next to him.

A pair of bleary hazel eyes met hers followed by a weak smile and a cough. "Hey." He breathed, hand pressed against his chest in preparation for the discomfort that always came when he woke.

Scully reached for the glass of water on the bedside table holding it while Mulder took a couple of eager swallows. "Better?"

"Yeah." He croaked pushing himself upright against the pillows. "What time is it?"

Scully reached out and brushed the hair back off his forehead. "It's not too late, do you feel up to having something to eat?"

"Depends on what it is."

"I was thinking a nice plain omelet should slide down without too much trouble."

"Mmm, sounds good, I want to get up to eat it though."

"Are you feeling up to it?" Scully enquired with a frown.

"Truthfully, no." Mulder admitted. "But I have to get up sooner or later and I'd prefer it to be sooner."

Scully nodded and reached for the sweatpants on the dresser as Mulder eased himself to the side of the bed. Once he was dressed she led the way into the kitchen.

As he settled into a chair, Mulder spied the parcel still sitting on the table. "What's this?"

"Oh I forgot, a courier dropped it off just as you woke up."

"Who's it from?" He regarded it curiously.

"I don't know, there's no return address." Scully pried the tape away from the well-wrapped package.

"Maybe it's your mysterious flower sender." Mulder suggested.

"I hoped that whoever that was had given up."

"You still don't have any idea."

Scully shook her head as she lifted the lid of the box away and pulled at the plastic inside. "Oh..." Her sharp exclamation coupled with the sudden whitening of her complexion had Mulder on his feet and at her side.

"Scully, what is it?" He rasped.

Turning her head away, she pointed a shaky hand at what the box enclosed. Carefully Mulder inspected the contents. His eyes widened as he saw the same plush fox toy that he had purchased over a week ago. It had been hacked to pieces and liberally covered in what looked like blood. A small piece of white paper was tucked behind the wrapping. Gingerly with two fingers, he eased it out and dropped it to the table. The message was smudged with the same substance but still legible. 'IF YOU DON'T WANT TO END UP LIKE THIS FOX MULDER, GIVE DANA BACK TO ME'

"Oh shit… "

Seashore Highway.
21st June.

Scully could smell the salt air, the driver's window was open and the fresh tang was blowing throughout the car. She glanced across at Mulder, his seat was reclined slightly, his arms were crossed loosely over his body and his head lolled on the backrest. His breathing was slow and deep and every now and then he gave a small snore. Exhaustion had beset him only a few minutes into their journey and as hard as he had tried to stay awake, his body had made other plans.

This was not exactly the way she had planned things, Scully thought; the shock she'd received from the contents of the parcel had been nothing compared to how it affected Mulder. She recalled the stunned look on his face as he read the note, the sudden intake of a startled breath which had led to a serious bout of coughing, his hands splayed on the table, his head hanging down as he desperately tried to catch his breath. The pained look on his face as he pressed a closed fist to the center of his chest trying to alleviate the agony he was feeling and finally, how his legs had simply collapsed underneath him. He had missed the chair on the way down and ended up in a dismal sprawl on her kitchen floor.

A couple of bursts with an inhaler had helped immensely and he had managed with her help to get back to his feet. Scully smiled as she pictured the argument that had subsequently arisen when she'd directed him back to bed. Stubbornly, Mulder had refused and although unable to vocalize his protest, his facial expression had left no doubt as to exactly what he thought about her instruction. Common sense had triumphed eventually and Mulder had spent most of the day resting, surfacing again in the late afternoon just before A.D. Skinner arrived.

Of course he had not been accepting of their idea of getting out of town, and verbal protests along with a whole lot of negative head shaking had ensued, even the classic Mulder pout not winning him any points.

Finally with plans made and destinations discussed, Skinner had left Scully's apartment, taking with him the parcel and note enclosed in an evidence bag. Leaving instructions for Mulder to rest and recuperate and to please not find anything that needed investigating.

So that brought them to here, some forty miles out of Ocean City, where Scully intended to do nothing except indulge in some serious relaxation for the next two weeks. She had booked a self-contained cottage on the oceanfront and the thought of long walks on the beach was greatly appealing. Hopefully it would also appeal to Mulder, the warm sea air would aid his healing lungs immensely and exposure to the sun could only benefit his complexion, which because he was so pale was looking downright spooky.

The sharp cry of a seagull-wheeling overhead roused Mulder from his unplanned nap and he sat up slowly, blinking against the bright sunlight. Bringing the seat back upright, he rubbed his hand across his eyes and took in their surroundings.

Crooking the corner of his mouth up, he turned to Scully and asked in an entirely innocent, albeit raspy voice. "Are we there yet?"

"Bet you were fun on journeys when you were young." Scully remarked dryly.

Mulder was silent for several moments. "Looking back as an adult, it makes me wonder what possessed my parents to take Samantha and me on long car trips. Between playing countless games of I Spy and letting her win at license plate alphabet, we must have driven them mad."

"Who won?"

"Sam always won I Spy, I never could figure out her logic; that cloud began with d because it looked like a duck."

Scully smiled brightly before picking up some papers and handing them to her partner. "Seeing you're awake, you can play navigator." She gestured to the top sheet. "We're on the Seashore highway now, what's next?"

Reaching into an inner pocket, Mulder pulled out his glasses and perched them on his nose. Her heart rate rose at the sight and she let loose a small sigh of satisfaction.

Mulder looked over at her and raised an eyebrow. "You okay?"

"I'm fine Mulder." She replied, a little too quickly. He gave her a knowing smirk.

He returned his attention to the map. "According to these instructions, we have to make a right onto Dupont Boulevard and drive for twenty-four miles." Mulder studied the next sheet of paper before looking up. "Sorry twenty-four point three miles to be exact."

Scully smiled before reaching over and stroking her finger along the side of his face. "Have I ever told you how sexy those glasses make you look?"

Stunned at the complete change in topic Mulder stared at her, his mouth open. "Uh, no can't say I recall you ever telling me that."

A shy smile dimpled her cheek. "Well they do, I always remember the first time I saw you, bent over your slides and when you looked up..." She trailed off, suddenly self-conscious at her boldness.

Mulder took her hand and stroked his fingers across the back. "No, don't stop, tell me. I like discovering all these new tidbits about you. It's like Christmas every day"

Hesitantly she began speaking. "I didn't know you at all except from rumors that I'd heard and suddenly there you were, and all I could look at was your eyes and I couldn't help but think that they spoke volumes about you; they told me that you had integrity, that you believed in your principles, and that I'd be devastated when you took your glasses off."

"You certainly hid your devastation well."

"It took practice." She replied. "Years and years of practice."

"Well now we get to practice something else." Mulder grinned. "And you know what they say."

"What… who say?"

He waved a hand vaguely in the air. "They, them, whoever it is who says the profound things that stick in your mind."

"Okay, what is it that they say?"

"Practice makes perfect." He raised both eyebrows, titled his head and gave her a pointed look. "And I for one am looking forward to a whole lot of practicing."

Scully raised her own eyebrow back at him. "Is that right?"

A cough that he had been suppressing for the last few minutes burst forth. "Oh yeah." He gasped breathlessly.

"As much as I want to practice as well Mulder, I think we might have to wait until your breathing has cleared up."

The wind went out of Mulder's sails and he slumped dejectedly in the seat. "Don't s'pose it'd do any good to tell you I feel fine, would it."

"Mulder, I'm just concerned. My ears are telling me you are not fine."

"I know Scully, but I also know how I feel."

This time the Mulder pout worked. "Look I'm not ruling anything out definitively, but we'll start slow and work our way up, okay?"

Elation bloomed across his face. "I can do slow." He croaked. "I can out slow a snail, Turtles have got nothing on..."

Scully's delighted laughter broke across his impassioned speech.

Kingfish Cottage
Outskirts of Ocean City.

The cottage was small, secluded and perfect. At the end of a cul de sac, the exterior freshly painted, it sat back a short distance from the road. The two agents walked through the cozy interior, polished wooden floors covered here and there by colorful rugs, brightly upholstered wicker furniture and long gauzy curtains hanging at the full-length windows completed the living room.

Holding his luggage, Mulder hesitated outside the main bedroom; he was torn between taking the initiative and assuming they were going to share the one room, and not wanting to appear to Scully to be overly eager. Deciding to err on the side of caution, he moved to the second smaller room, dropped his suitcase to the floor and sat down on the side of the bed. The small amount of physical exertion involved in walking from the car to the house had him panting like a long distance runner.


"In here Scully." He wheezed.

She entered the room and took one look at him. Placing a cool hand on his forehead, she leaned in closer as he slung an arm around her waist. "Want to have a rest?"

"No, just let me catch my breath."

Once she had assured herself that Mulder was as fine as he said, Scully went to finish her unpacking. Mulder decided to leave his for later and followed her to the other bedroom. He settled himself on the side of the bed and watched her as she moved around hanging clothes in the wardrobe and placing other items in the dresser. After her suitcase was empty and stowed away Scully came and sat beside him, she took his face in her hands and gently pressed her lips to his. Willingly Mulder responded, his soft full mouth opening under hers. This was bliss she decided, as their kiss grew deeper. She felt his hands; large, warm and heavy encircle her as he pressed their bodies together. Heat enveloped her, turning her almost dizzied and mindless. She could hear Mulder's breathing become labored and remembering her resolve to go slowly, Scully forced herself to pull away.

Mulder's eyes were closed, his cheeks flushed with desire; as he felt the cooler air replace the warmth of Scully's lips, his eyes slowly opened. Before he could speak, she pressed her fingertips gently against his mouth. She leaned forward, pressed her mouth against his ear and whispered in a low seductive voice. "Come with me."

She stood back and Mulder looked up as she crooked a finger at him. He levered himself off the bed and slowly moved towards her. "I'll go anywhere with you." He breathed.

"Good, we have to go grocery shopping." Scully turned and left the room, a mischievous smile on her face as a strangled "Sculleee!!" followed her down the hall.

Shopping with Mulder, Scully decided was an experience that should only be undertaken when one has had a good nights sleep. His idea of groceries and hers differed widely, if it wasn't frozen or took more than a few minutes to prepare, he wasn't interested. He looked horrified when she placed fresh fruit and yogurt in the cart, and she knew her expression must have mirrored his when he began selecting items from the snack food aisle. Pretzels and corn chips, along with salsa dip and several bags of sunflower seeds were chosen, until she gently reminded him that maybe they weren't the best choice with his throat in its current condition. The crestfallen expression he unwittingly adopted when he removed his beloved sunflower seeds had prompted her to add that he could though, eat all the ice cream that he wished.

The shopping complete and stowed in the trunk, they slowly drove through the center of the town. The area was famed as a family friendly vacation spot and it certainly seemed like it lived up to its reputation. Negotiating the last intersection before heading back to their cottage, Scully was startled when Mulder twisted around and croaked out a cheerful exclamation.

"Hey cool!" His gaze was fixed over his shoulder. "Scully, we gotta stop."

"Why, what did you see?" She began looking for a place to pull over.

"They've got mini golf. Can we go play a game, please?"

He sounded so much like an excited child that Scully couldn't help but smile. "Mini golf Mulder?"

"Yeah, come on Scully, it's fun."

"I don't doubt it, but unless you want to eat your ice cream with a straw, I think we'd better get the groceries put away first."

Kingfish Cottage.

The trip back to the cottage was done in less than fifteen minutes; parking down by the side of the building, Scully opened the trunk before exiting the car. She sorted through the bags handing the two least heavy to her partner. Mulder stood silently while she loaded several onto each arm.

"Scully, what are you doing?"

She looked up in surprise at his question. "Bringing in the shopping Mulder."

He lifted the two bags she had handed him and fixed her with a look. "I'm not a complete invalid." He grumbled.

His accusation stilled her movements, her complexion darkening with shame as she realized that she had been treating him exactly as if he was incapable of doing anything for himself. Putting down the bags she held, she turned to him. "I'm sorry Mulder, it wasn't intentional."

He shifted both bags to the one hand and held the empty one out towards her. "I know you're worried Scully, but I promise not to break in two."

She nodded in acquiescence and bent to gather the shopping. Before picking up the bags she turned suddenly, reached up on tiptoes and planted a kiss against Mulder's lips. For a split second he was stunned by her boldness, then his free hand found its way around her waist and he deepened the kiss.

"Damn you!" The words were growled out followed by an ugly curse as Floyd Markham watched the two agents in their embrace. His car parked under an overhanging tree was obscured, but allowed him an unimpeded view of the cottage where his quarry had fled.

He had been surprised early that morning when three people had left Dana's building with suitcases. He smiled at first when his eyes settled on the fiery tresses of his love, but a scowl soon replaced it as he recognized the slighter of the two men. Fox Mulder had placed his arm around Dana as he shook the tall bald man's hand. Dana had then shaken the man's hand before they watched him climb into his car and drive away.

Markham had noted that the bald man was the same one who had left there yesterday, holding a large clear plastic bag containing the little gift he had sent.

Apparently his tactic of warning Mulder off had not worked quite as he'd planned. His intention had been to scare Mulder off and then once the way was clear, he would arrive to offer aid and comfort to poor dear Dana. Instead it looked like his gift had scared both of them enough to make them leave. His spur of the moment decision to follow them had taken him on a journey to this coastal area and consequently, this semi-secluded cottage; their love nest it seemed.

Markham's anger at Mulder's continuing disregard of his demands boiled; the man would pay, pure and simple, there was nothing more to it than that. He hadn't taken heed of the first warning, so there would be no second chance, he'd make sure that Mulder was out of the way for good this time. He watched as the couple separated and carried their supplies inside. From the amount of bags they held it looked like they intended their sickening rendezvous to be a lengthy one.

He tightened his grip on the steering wheel as he started his car; he had plans to make and he needed supplies. He knew where they were and the beauty of their location was the isolation; no nosy neighbors to be concerned about, no chance encounters by good Samaritans wondering whether his car had broken down. A smile crept over his face as he quietly reversed the car away from the cottage, soon he thought, Dana would be in his arms soon.

Scully closed the pantry door after placing the last of the groceries inside and turned to Mulder who had been lounging against the sink watching her move around the kitchen.

"There all done." She brushed her hands together.

"Good, now can we go play mini golf?"

"What is it about this game that has you so keen?" She laughed at his eager expression.

Mulder placed a hand on his chest. "You are talking to the Mulder family mini golf champion 1969 to 1972." He stated proudly.

Scully adopted a look of astonishment. "Goodness, I never knew I was in the presence of someone so legendary."

"Ha ha." Mulder grinned before covering a sudden cough. He shook his head as Scully approached him. "I'm okay, just got to remember..." He took a breath. "Not to say too much in one go." He crossed his arms and raised an eyebrow. "So?"

"So, I was thinking." Scully snuggled her arms around her partner. "What about some lunch."

"Hmm, I suppose I could eat something."

"Then, maybe a nice slow walk along the beach."


"And then after that, I thought I would show you one of the reasons why I chose this particular cottage."

Mulder's finely tuned curiosity was on the rise. "One of the reasons, how many were there?"

"Quite a few actually." Scully disengaged herself from his embrace and turned away to start preparing lunch. She called out over her shoulder as Mulder began to walk out of the room. "Are you trying to ruin my surprise?"

Guiltily he stopped where he was before returning to sit at the table. When he hadn't spoken a word for several minutes, she asked what he was doing.

"I'm thinking."

"Oh was that the strange noise I heard." She brushed her hand through his thick hair.

Mulder tipped his head up and gave her a 'look'. "This frivolity is unlike you, my dear Agent Scully." His eyes crinkled with mirth. "But I like it."

Scully deposited herself on his lap, her hand still running through the lush brown locks. "I should be worried about the lunatic who sent that parcel, I should be concerned over the fact that we've basically run away, but I'm not. I feel safe, I feel secure." She nuzzled his cheek. "I feel loved."

"You definitely are loved." Mulder found her lips with his and commenced to show her just how much, letting his hands roam up and down her back.

The beach was almost deserted; way off in the distance barely visible through the salt and sand, a couple of figures could be seen. But right here and now it was as if Mulder and Scully had the whole beach to themselves. Walking hand in hand, they stopped occasionally when one or the other bent down to examine a shell or a piece of beach detritus.

The sun was warm and the water cool as they splashed barefoot through the shallow waves. Mulder looked across at the woman he adored, watching as the breeze blew her vibrant copper tresses away from her face. She turned her face towards him and smiled.

"Ready to go back?"

"Do I find out what your other reasons were if I say yes?"


Mulder placed his hand gently under her chin, tipping it up so he could place a light kiss on her lips. "Do any of these reasons involve getting naked?" He whispered huskily against her skin.

A flush crept up Scully's neck and colored her cheeks. Dipping her head, she breathed out her answer. "Mmm, possibly."

"And maybe the exchange of bodily fluids?"

"Depends on whether you're a good boy or not."

"I'm sure I can manage something along those lines."

"Well we'd better be getting back then hadn't we?" Scully's blue eyes shone as she gazed up into cool hazel.

Unhurriedly they retraced their steps, their arms entwined, as were their hearts.

Mulder's eyes raked over the interior of the cottage as they walked in from the beach, he noted a couple of items that he'd missed earlier, a long comfortable looking couch and a cabinet that held a moderate sized television. Scully following him, noting his careful scrutiny of the room and smiled. "My first reason is this way." She called as she started down the hall nearest the bedrooms.

Mulder trailed after her, brows furrowed in interest as she stopped outside the bathroom. It was one room he hadn't entered yet as his toiletries were still sitting in his unpacked suitcase. Scully pushed the door open with a flourish and gestured for him to enter. The room was disproportionately large for the size of the cottage but as he moved fully inside he saw the reason why.

Taking up one full corner of the bathroom overlooked by a large pane of clear glass was a state of the art whirlpool bathtub. If he'd had the breath he'd have whistled, instead a wide grin lit up his whole face.

He walked forward slowly, taking in the blatant extravagance of the contoured, padded head and armrests and the multitude of jets. Turning, he folded his arms across his chest, leaned back on the side of the tub and eyed his partner. "This thing's huge, people who built this place must have been into water sports." He said huskily.

Scully's expression was dreamlike. "I'm going to own one of these one day."

"You'll need a whole new house to put it in."

"As I said, one day."

Mulder gestured with his thumb at the window behind him. "Are you sure about this?"

"One way glass." He was assured. "Can't see through from the other side."

"Cool, room with a view." He stepped into the tub and gazed out the window; all he could see was yards of sand and the waves lapping lazily upon the shore. The romance was not lost on him, in fact it bubbled giddily all through him with the possibilities.

Scully giggled at the sight of him standing barefoot in the tub with his pants rolled up to just below his knees. She leaned on the side and coyly asked. "Want to try it out."

"I think I could be persuaded." He responded, inclining his body slightly and brushing her lips.

Scully closed her eyes and sank into the feeling of his mouth against hers.

The sun had gone down and several artfully placed low wattage globes provided the only illumination in the room. Scully felt warm and languid, her eyes barely slitted as she watched tiny puffs of steam rise off the otherwise still water. Mischievously she wriggled her fingers, breaking the smooth surface and causing minute ripples to eddy outward.

Sunk up to his chin, Mulder felt the slight disturbance in the water and cracked his eyes open. He noted that the ambient warm steam, lightly fragranced with lavender had eased his chest, his mind and his body were totally relaxed and it was an effort to form words.

"Sc..." He swallowed and tried again. "Scully?"


"You okay?"

"Uh huh."


One azure blue eye opened and stared at him from across the other side of the tub. "Yeah?"

"Love you." His toes found hers in the water and he rubbed them lazily against hers, his teasing intentional. If only he knew what he was doing to her, from the looks on his face he was well aware exactly the effect he was having. She sensed major tingles from his as well.

The other eye opened and she tilted her head, causing a lock of hair to tumble down from the loose knot she had tied earlier. Scully gathered her feet under herself and gently propelled herself across the water; she came to a rest with the upper half of her body pressed deliciously against Mulder's chest. "I love you too." Her small pink tongue darted out and lapped at a bead of perspiration as it slid slowly down his face.

Mulder lifted an arm that felt boneless and tucked the strand of hair back behind her ear. Cupping her cheek in his hand he swept his thumb across her lips.

Scully lifted both hands to the back of his neck, clenching her fingers in his damp hair she brought her mouth down to his and lapped gently at his lips. His mouth opened and a low moan escaped. Endless seconds later, she pulled away and rested her forehead against his.

"Time to get out I think."

" we have to?"

"For your health's sake...yes we do."

Reluctantly Mulder nodded, standing up he helped Scully out first before climbing out after her. Passing him one of the thick towels, she secured the other around herself and watched him as he dried off. He was still too thin for her liking, his illness had taken a harsh toll, robbing him of his usual healthy vitality and leaving him with visibly prominent ribs and a slight gauntness in his face.

Taking his hand, she led the way into the main bedroom, Mulder stopped in surprise when he saw his suitcase sitting open on the bottom of the bed.


"I moved it before, you don't think I was going to let you sleep alone do you?"

"I wasn't...I thought maybe..."

"Remember what you told me a little while ago, I want to go to sleep in your arms and wake up the same way."

Mulder nodded as he recalled his words his hand stroking the soft skin of her back.

"Good, because I'm going to hold you to that." Lifting his hand, she pressed small kisses on the tips of his fingers. "You're mine Mulder and I have no intention of letting you go." She turned away to the dresser and lifted out a pair of soft mint green pajamas. Without the least hint of modesty, she unwrapped her towel and let it drop to the floor.

Mulder's mouth went instantly dry, his eyes roamed over her perfect body settling on the tattoo at the base of her spine. A line of perspiration broke out on his top lip and he hurriedly sat down on the side of the bed unable to stem his body's automatic reaction not the least of which was the raspy breathing that threatened to get out of control. A touch on his shoulder and his name softly spoken brought him out of his introspection.

Scully now dressed, kneeled on the bed behind him, a pair of his pajama pants in her hand. "Everything okay?"

"Yeah, fine." He replied hoarsely. He took the clothing from her and willing his body to behave, pulled the pants on under the towel.

She pulled a t-shirt from his suitcase holding it to her face and inhaling deeply before passing it across. Mulder raised an eyebrow at her actions and she shrugged. "Can I help it if I love the way you smell."

A rough chuckle burst from his mouth. "That would have to be one of the most unusual things anybody has ever said to me."

It was Scully's turn to raise her eyebrow. "Come on Mulder, in our line of work."

"All right then that a woman has said."

The eyebrow went higher.

"A partner?" He offered weakly.

Scully shook her head.

Mulder took as deep a breath as he was able and straightened his shoulders. "Would you believe a lover?"

Scully's heart swelled as she heard the words. "Okay, I'll buy that one." She held her hand out as she wriggled off the bed. "All right, next reason." Leading the way back out into the living room, she pointed Mulder at the couch and walked over to an unremarkable screen against the wall. Sliding it out of the way, she revealed a fireplace.

Scully glanced back at her partner who was taking quite an interest in her actions.

"It's gas." She explained. "But it has the look of a real wood burning fireplace." She flicked a switch on one side and watched as flames lit up a stack of artificial logs.

Mulder leaned back on the couch, impressed. "I like all the reasons you've come up with so far."

Scully leaned in against him. "I just wish I could transplant this whole place back to D.C."

"Would you be looking for a roomie?" Mulder's words held a suggestion of hope.

She gazed up at him. "Without a doubt."

The cottage was silent, only the faint repetitive sound of the surf crashing onto the shore and the deep heavy breathing of the man who lay with his head on her lap, as she slowly combed his hair with her fingers. It was a measure of his fatigue that there was not the slightest response when she nuzzled his ear.

Evidence of their evening meal was scattered over the table and the floor, Scully gave serious consideration to tidying things up for all of five seconds before she decided it wouldn't hurt the dishes or her to leave them until morning. Relaxation was the key word and getting bent out of shape because of a few dirty dishes was clearly not the answer. Snuggling with Mulder was more important.

She leaned over Mulder's sound asleep body and patted him lightly on the face. "Mulder?"

His face twitched slightly at the contact so she tried again. This time a little louder. "Mulder!"

Slowly his eyes opened until a sliver of hazel showed under the heavy lids. "Hmm?"

Scully stroked his face softly. "It's bed time."

"Mmm hmm." He pulled his knees closer to his body then went still.

His actions were so like that of a tired little boy that Scully couldn't help but smile. She patted his face again and moved her knees under his head.

This time his eyes opened further, he mumbled unintelligibly before raising a hand to his face. "I'm awake."

"Good, it's time to go to bed."

Rolling over he stared up at her, blinking slowly. "Huh?"

She placed a light kiss on his sleepy lips. "Bed time."

"Oh, okay." Mulder shifted off her lap and pulled himself upright. He sat there for a moment blinking his eyes while Scully stood up. "Didn't mean to fall asleep."

"Your body is still healing, you'll probably do a lot more sleeping than normal."

"Yeah, suppose." He climbed slowly to his feet and put a hand out towards Scully. As she moved in towards him, he saw the plates left from their meal. "Oh the dishes."

"Leave them, they can wait till morning."

A slow smile blossomed across Mulder's face. "I love it when you break out and live dangerously."

Scully took his hand and guided him to the bedroom. "Need a bathroom stop?"

"Nah, I'm good."

"Okay, I'll be back in a minute." She closed the door behind her.

Mulder pulled back the covers on the bed and sat down rubbing a hand across his face. His tired mind slowly grasped the fact that tonight he and Scully were finally going to sleep together; cautiously he took a deep breath and stretched his arms above his head.

The water in the bathroom stopped running and Scully stepped out into the room. Moving to his side she brushed the hair away from his eyes. "Everything okay?" She asked.

A yawn caught Mulder by surprise and he nodded his head as an answer.

"Come on then." She went around to the other side of the bed, sliding in on the fresh crisp sheets. Turning onto her side she watched Mulder do the same.

He lifted an arm and she moved over nestling in against his side. His arm came down over her body and she reveled in the feeling of his warmth. Mulder turned and pressed his face into her hair. He breathed in her scent and sighed deeply. "Wanna cuddle?" He asked in a drowsy voice.

"I thought we were."

"Mmm, 's nice." His breathing evened out as he dropped back to sleep.

Scully lay still delighting in the sensation of his body pressed against hers, the knowledge of knowing that he was finally hers had taken a while to sink in but it was undeniable now. Her deepest desire had been realized and she wanted to stay safe and secure in his arms forever. She could feel his heart beating under her cheek and the slow and steady vibration eventually lulled her to sleep.

Kingfish Cottage.
22nd June.

Mulder shifted in bed and sluggishly opened his eyes; the rhythmic sound of the ocean was the first thing he noticed as he came fully awake. He lay still for a few moments, trying to ward off a cough, listening to the crash of the nearby surf as it pounded endlessly on to the shore. The room was lit by the faintest glow of early morning light that slipped in around the edges of the window blinds. He raised his arms above his head and indulged himself in a luxurious stretch from his toes up to his fingertips. Rolling on to his side he peered through the semi darkness at the figure by his side.

Scully lay facing away from him, her soft and steady breathing letting him know she was still asleep. Propping himself up on an elbow, leaned over and gazed at her features. Her eyelashes lay thickly against her creamy skin, a loose lock of hair draped across her face moved with each exhale from her slightly parted full pink lips. Tenderly, Mulder lifted the hair up and away, pressing a light kiss upon her shoulder.

He sat up, rolled out of the bed and headed for the bathroom, the view from the window beckoning him. The sun was just beginning to crest the horizon; in a few minutes it would be a brand new day. Too bad his constitution wasn't up to a run.

The orange and pink hues of the rising sun were reflected off the ocean onto the remnants of fluffy clouds. He could see seagulls trotting up and down the shore, chasing whatever food was being swept in with the rising tide. Mulder finished up in the bathroom, changed into a pair of jeans and headed for the kitchen to start some coffee, as he passed through the living room, last nights dishes caught his eye. He felt guilty for falling asleep so early and decided to make amends by clearing them away.

Floyd Markham woke stiff and irritable, training his eyes on the cottage a feeling of resentment flared within him as he envisaged Fox Mulder relaxing in a comfortable bed. He climbed out of the car and stretched his limbs; a desire to find out whether it would be easy to get into their cottage sparked the decision to have a look around. The sun was barely up and remembering how late the light had been turned out last night made him feel secure that it would be some time yet before the occupants would be stirring.

Crossing the narrow road, he moved stealthily down the side of the building, keeping clear of any loose stones and gravel that might broadcast his movements.
All the windows were covered with either curtains or blinds and he was unable to see inside. Cautiously circling around to the beach side of the small house, he was taken by surprise by the sound of water gurgling through the pipes. He froze in place flattening himself against a wall.

It suddenly occurred to him how absurd his furtiveness was, if the person moving around inside was Dana, he was sure she would be pleased to see him again. If however it were Fox Mulder, he would have a little surprise for him.

Markham scanned his eyes over the ground smiling grimly as he caught sight of a rock edged garden, choosing one slightly bigger than fist-size, he continued on until he was in sight of the back door.

The waves kept drawing Mulder's attention as he tidied away the last of the plates, glancing around the kitchen, he noted that it was as presentable as he could make it and the coffee machine was making suitable noises and nice aromas. There was no sound or movement from the bedroom, so he decided to take a quick walk down to the water. Just as his hand touched the door handle, a surge of coughing nearly doubled him over. Frantically trying to catch his breath, he ended up leaning on the kitchen counter his chest heaving from the convulsions.

"Mulder?" Scully's questioning voice sounded. He crossed his arms over his chest as the doctors had shown him and gasped in a lungful of air. The paroxysm eased finally and he straightened up as Scully came up behind him, full of gentle concern. Placing a hand between his shoulder blades, she rubbed gently waiting for his heaving breathing to slow back to normal.

"What brought that on?" She asked.

Mulder shook his head. "Don't know, wasn't doing anything."

"Apart from cleaning the kitchen." Scully looked around. "What cleaning agents did you use?"

"I remember what the Doctor said about chemicals, I just used hot water and soap." He wheezed as he straightened up.

Scully placed her arms around his waist and leaned her head on his chest. His heart was beating faster than normal, but that was to be expected.

"I woke up alone." She murmured against his shirt.

"Nature called." He explained. "And then I could hear the waves and I was just going to watch the sun come up from the beach."

"Want some company?"

"Without a doubt."

"Okay, give me a minute, I'll just throw some clothes on." She extricated herself and moved quickly back to the bedroom.

"I'll just be outside." He called hoarsely.

"Don't go near the water, it'll be too cold."

Mulder rolled his eyes and grasped the door handle again. As he pulled the door open he heard Scully's voice.

"Mulder, did you hear me?" She appeared back in the kitchen, a long sleeved shirt in one hand.

"Yes, I heard you, don't go near the water."

She smiled sheepishly. "I don't mean to nag, it's just that I'm concerned."

"I know." He motioned for her to hurry up. "Come on, the sun's not going to wait for you." Mulder watched as she dashed back to the bedroom. He opened the door fully and stepped outside.

"You don't listen do you?"

The unexpected sound took Mulder by surprise and he whirled around just as a sudden movement caught the edge of his vision. He felt something solid connect with his temple and stunned, he fell against the door knocking it back against the wall with a loud thud. A wave of dizziness washed over him as he groaned.

"Why mine...told you..."

The words were disjointed and meaningless to Mulder as he struggled to pull himself upright. "Who...?" His voice disintegrated into a cough, the force of which sent a shockwave of pain through his head.

Scully paused with one arm halfway inside a sweater as a thump sounded from another part of the cottage. Curious as to what the noise was, she called out from the bedroom door. "Mulder, was that you?"

When no answer came back she hurriedly finished pulling her jersey on, forgoing changing out of her pajama pants she moved swiftly back to the kitchen. "Mulder?"

Markham looked up at the sound of Dana's voice. Furiously, he hauled the unsteady agent to his feet and forced him out the door.

"Mulder, what was...?" Scully's words died as she entered the room. Taking in the scene, she instantly transformed from worried companion to determined FBI agent. "Stop where you are, Federal Agent!"

Markham tightened his grip around Mulder's limp form and pushed him another few steps forward.

"I said stop."

"He's not good enough for you Dana." He called out unable to see her clearly.

The use of her given name stunned her. "What do you want?"

Markham kept up a slow onward pace. "Just you, all I want is you Dana."

Scully grabbed at the nearest item to hand and hurled it with all her strength. The heavy marble bookend struck Markham a glancing blow in the middle of his back compelling him to lose his grip on Mulder. The almost insensible agent slid to the sand as Markham groaned out loud, stumbled and dropped to one knee.

Scully raced for the bedroom, flinging open the closet door and scrabbling for her weapon that she had left in her overnight bag. She snapped the magazine into place and tore back up the hallway. She lurched to a halt as she saw the man drag Mulder back to his feet and hook an arm tightly around his throat. "Stop where you are. Freeze."

Markham spun around dragging Mulder bodily with him and faced the enraged woman. "Dana you don't understand."

Scully gasped as she saw his face for the first time. "You!"

"I did it for you."

"You sent the flowers." She took a step forward as Markham moved back holding his hostage tightly against his chest. "You were the depraved person who sent that parcel."

Mulder who had been barely conscious chose that moment to regain his senses. He began to struggle against Markham's grip forcing the man to lose his grasp. They both tumbled to the sand, Mulder on all fours, bleeding profusely now from his head wound, Markham only to his knees.

"Can't you see that we were meant to be together?" The crazed stalker declared, his chest heaving with barely restrained emotion.

"No!" Scully shouted as he leaned forward and grabbed a dazed Mulder by the hair.

"Yes!" Markham growled, climbing to his feet and dragging Mulder up with him like a rag doll.

"I'm warning you, if you don't let him go, I'll be compelled to use deadly force." She raised her gun stepping forward to match Markham's retreat.

"Not before I do." His threat hung in the air as he reached a hand into his pants pocket and pulled out a knife, pressing it into Mulder's side.

Scully paled and lowered her weapon as the man again hauled Mulder further down the beach. "What do you want?" She begged. "Please just leave him alone and I'll do whatever you want."

"I don't think so." Markham's eyes narrowed with cruelty. "I can see in your eyes that you think he's more important than me so that means I have to get him out of the way."

"Please no." She pleaded.

Awareness began to seep back to Mulder and he started to struggle against the tight grip across his chest. "Scully?"

Markham cursed and steadied himself, waving the knife in front of the agent. "Keep still or you'll be sorry." They had backed up almost to the water's edge.

The warning he was given didn't register nor did the sudden tug on his hair. The only thing that concerned Mulder was the fright in Scully's voice. He jerked suddenly, loosening the hold on his hair and turned. He got his first good look at the man responsible and his immediate reaction was to laugh. Inconveniently, the laugh turned into a sharp series of hacking coughs that bent him almost double and stole the little remaining strength in his legs. He turned his collapse into a controlled fall using it to sweep Markham's legs out from under him. They both tumbled into the water, Mulder to one side and slightly underneath the other man.

"Mulder!" He heard Scully's high-pitched voice again. He thrust his body upward in an attempt to throw the other man off but all he got for his trouble was a harsh blow across the face. The waves splashed over them both, the increasing force rolling them over together. Mulder made it to his knees but was knocked backward as Markham came at him bodily. The force of the collision drove the breath from his lungs and he opened his mouth to gasp in much needed air just as another wave hit. Gagging on the water, he barely managed to notice Markham coming at him again with fire in his eyes, holding the knife out in front of him.

Anger gave the slighter man an advantage over a rapidly weakening Mulder; he threw himself forward, barreling them both into deeper water. Rising up on his knees, he triumphantly looked his competitor for Dana's attention in the eye before plunging the knife deeply in under the agent's ribs.

Mulder convulsed as a white-hot blaze of pain engulfed him. He brought his hands up to his injury feeling the knife grate against bone. As another wave splashed over him, he saw Markham rear back. Seawater sprayed from his mouth as he gloated exultantly. "She's mine now!"

Then suddenly the sneer on his face changed to one of extreme astonishment as he took a deep breath and opened his mouth in a cry of anguish. Red spittle flecked his lips and he clutched a hand against a rapidly blooming bloodstain on his chest.

Eyes impossibly wide, he gurgled out a final word before falling forward on top of Mulder and driving the knife further into the agent's chest.

With the waves splashing up over her knees, Scully tucked her gun into her waistband and moved swiftly to her partner's side. Markham lay face down, his weight holding Mulder's body under the water. She rolled the lifeless man away, reaching down to put her arms under Mulder's shoulders and lifting his face up and out of the water.

His body was a dead weight and her arms trembled with the effort of pulling him up into the shallows. Once she had him far enough out of the water's reach, she dropped to her knees pressing her fingers against his throat. She was able to detect a faint pulse but there was no movement of his chest.

"No, this is not happening!" She cried as she pulled his mouth open and tipped his head back. She placed her lips over his mouth and pushed a breath into his lungs, another one followed as she watched his chest rise and fall again. Lifting her head, she felt for his pulse again, it was still there but no stronger; again she lowered her head and breathed for her partner. For a full minute she kept it up, every four seconds forcing a breath into lungs unwilling to breathe for themselves. Then without warning, his body shuddered as he began to cough up salt water. Quickly tipping him onto his side away from the injury, Scully held him there until he stopped choking and his breathing evened out.

"Mulder, can you hear me?" She pleaded in a trembling voice. His eyelids fluttered but other than that he stayed still. Carefully, she positioned him again on his back and checked his pupils, they both contracted when opened and she breathed a sigh of relief. The jagged gash on his temple was not bleeding as copiously, so she left it alone and concentrated on the more serious wound.

The knife went through his t-shirt and into his body up to its hilt; carefully Scully tore his shirt away and examined the point of entry. A small amount of blood seeped from around the blade and now ran down his side. Scully looked around her, not a single person was to be seen. She needed to get back to the cottage and call the paramedics and police but she didn't dare leave Mulder alone in case he regained awareness and started moving around. God forbid what extra damage he might do if that happened.

She tried again to rouse him, patting his cheek and calling his name; finally she managed to get a reaction. The muscles in his face began to twitch as he surfaced back to consciousness. A low drawn out moan hailed his awakening and Scully gently laid one hand on his forehead and the other on his chest in an attempt to keep him from moving.

"Sc..." His first endeavor to form words brought on another set of hacking coughs. His body tried to curl up double from the strain, inadvertently shifting the knife against his ribs and he stiffened in agony. Clenching his eyes shut, his teeth clamped down on his lower lip so hard he drew blood. One hand flailed up, forcing Scully to abandon the hold on his chest and press the limb back into the sand.

"Keep still Mulder!" She whispered breathlessly.

"Ah...hurts." He whimpered.

"I know." She smoothed her hand over his forehead. "Just lie still."

"What happened?" His voice was a mere gasp.

"You've been stabbed." She explained leaning over to catch his unfocused gaze. "Mulder, I need you to pay attention to me, can you do that?"

" me Scull..."

"Mulder, I know it hurts but you have to listen to me."


"I have to get my phone but to do that means I have to leave you, do you understand?"


"Okay, listen carefully now. You can't move, I don't know what sort of damage the knife has done but if you move it could do more. I have to leave it in for now, or you could lose too much blood. The knife is keeping the blood loss to a minimum right now."

A frightened expression crossed his face and his rate of breathing began to increase. "Knife...?"

"Calm down Mulder, please sweetheart."

"Scully...the knife?"

"Come on, take it easy, slow breaths." She moved her hand and stroked the side of his face with gentle fingertips. As his breathing dropped in intensity his eyes fixed on hers and he frowned.

"What say?"

"I said a lot of things Mulder, are you talking about your injury?"

" called me..." His lips pursed but he was unable to voice the word.

A soft smile lifted the corners of her mouth. "Sweetheart."

"Yeah..." He breathed and his eyes closed. "Again."

"You want me to call you sweetheart again?"

A slow nod was her answer.

"Okay sweetheart, but only if you lay perfectly still for me. Can you do that?"

"Anything...for you." He whispered.

Scully dropped a gentle kiss on his lips and stroked his forehead. "All right my sweetheart, I'm going to get my phone now, you're not going to move are you?"


"That's right. Just lie still, think of all the time we have to explore this new life we have. So much to look forward to. Hang on love please." She pressed another kiss to his forehead and then she was up and sprinting across the sand.

From the time of her phone call to when the paramedics arrived was less than twenty minutes but to Scully it seemed like several lifetimes. Mulder had lost consciousness shortly after she returned. She sat next to him listening to his slow, shallow breathing occasionally stealing a glance of contempt at the body of the man who had caused all the trouble, nearly completely submerged in the shallows, the incoming tide tossing the limp form back and forth.

The paramedics had evaluated Mulder's injuries, placed a dressing on his head wound and attached him to oxygen but decided that any other medical intervention was best left for the doctors at the hospital. They covered the chest would with the knife still embedded with a large dressing to keep out the worst of the sand.

Halfway to the hospital, Mulder began to come around. His eyes opened and closed, each time roaming around the interior of the ambulance until they settled on Scully. Then he would give a little sigh and relax again. She could hear indistinct mutterings from under the mask but any request for him to repeat what he was saying went unheard.

As soon as he had been whisked into emergency, Scully appropriated the nearest pay phone and called Skinner to report what had happened. Promising to follow up with the local police over the shooting, he informed her he would be at the hospital as soon as possible.

Forty-five minutes later she was still pacing up and down outside the area where Mulder was being treated. When the door was pushed open, she immediately accosted the person who exited.

"Please what can you tell me about the man inside?"

"Are you a relative dear?" The middle-aged nurse asked with kind eyes as she took in Scully's disheveled appearance.

"No, well yes, sort of, he's my FBI partner and my…er other partner as well. I also hold his medical power of attorney."

"Well, let me see if Dr Jervis will step out for a moment." She disappeared back inside the room and Scully recommenced her pacing.

Five minutes passed before the door reopened and a sturdy gray haired man in blue scrubs with a white coat walked out. "Hello." He smiled kindly, his brown eyes crinkling at the corners. "I understand you've got some information on our patient inside."

Scully nodded eagerly. "Yes, my name is Dana Scully, Mulder...uh Fox Mulder is my FBI he and I are partners..."

Dr Jervis held up a hand. "I understand, now I need to ask you a couple of questions about Fox."


"I beg your pardon?"

"Oh, I'm sorry." Scully gave the man an abashed look. "It's a habit, he doesn't like his first name, prefers everyone to just call him Mulder."

"Even you?" Jervis looked surprised.

"Even me."

"All right then, Fox...uh Mulder has previous significant damage to his lungs. What can you tell me about that?"

"Anything you need to know, I'm a medical doctor too."

Jervis' face lit up. "Well in that case, please come in, it'll save running out here every time we need to know something."

Scully smiled warmly in gratitude and followed the doctor into the room. Mulder had been moved to an examination table and was covered to the waist by a thin sheet. A fresh dressing graced the side of his head and a temporary bandage covered the injury on his chest. A pulse oximeter was clipped to one finger and an oxygen mask covered half his face. He was conscious, in obvious pain and as soon as he saw Scully enter the room, weakly lifted a hand up to her.

She leaned down and placed her hand on his forehead, his temperature felt elevated and she looked up at the doctor questioningly.

"He's definitely aspirated some water, we'll have to wait and see whether any complications arise from that." Jervis began to run through the list of injuries. "He's got a mild concussion from the blow to his head, his LOC is good currently and we don't expect any problems to crop up from that." He carefully adjusted the IV tubing running along Mulder's left arm. "He's got a single stab wound to the left chest in the mid-axillary line in the fourth intercostal space. Ribs look intact and I can't hear any crepitus, no bleeding but there is decreased breath sounds at the left base.

His abdomen is soft, non-tender and non-distended. Extremities are warm with good present distal pulses."

Scully nodded with each piece of information the doctor supplied.

"We've done an upright chest x-ray, which F...Mulder wasn't too happy about but he managed to get through, because the wound is isolated, there wasn't any reason for doing a pelvis and lateral C-spine. There's no pericardial effusion."

Scully breathed out a sigh of relief and gave Mulder a weak smile and a comforting hand on his shoulder.

"Good huh?" Jervis' eyes twinkled as he continued. "Okay, we've also done blood typing, a CBC, arterial blood gas and a toxicology screen which I suspected was not necessary but is hospital policy."

Mulder shifted under Scully's hand and moved his head back and forth.

"So tell me, what is the story on his lungs?"

Scully relayed all the information she had about the condition that had afflicted Mulder and his subsequent treatment. As she spoke she noticed Mulder getting more restless. Jervis became aware of his agitation and his increased heart rate.

"Mulder, what's the matter?" Scully asked, bending down to hear his words.


"Where's the pain Mulder?" Jervis asked.

"Back...uh between...shoulder blades...shit...hurts..."

All hell suddenly broke loose; Mulder's heart rate and pulse plummeted, the emergency team spun into action and before she knew it, Scully found herself deposited outside the trauma room again. Scant minutes later, Mulder's gurney banged against the doors and he was whisked away down the hall. Dr Jervis came hurrying out and headed in the same direction. Scully ran to keep up with him.

"What is it, what's wrong?" She asked breathlessly.

"Looks like Mulder has a diaphragmatic injury, we're taking him up to OR now for a diagnostic laparoscopy. If you want, you can wait in the third floor waiting room, as soon as I know something I'll send someone out to tell you." He increased his pace and left Scully behind, her tears not far away.

She slumped against the wall, her head hanging in exhaustion and worry; it felt like she had been on the go for days instead of just hours. Her gaze settled on the floor and her bare toes poking out of flat sandals. She abruptly realized that she was still wearing part of her pajamas, and they were wet and sand encrusted. She ran a hand through her uncombed hair, feeling how stiff and brittle with salt and sea water it felt. What she wouldn't give for an hour in that beautiful tub back at the cottage she thought. But there was no way she was leaving here until she saw Mulder again. She chastised herself of thinking of her own needs above the fact that the partner she loved dearly could be in terrible trouble and might not even survive. No it can't happen, not now, not when we are just starting a more intimate relationship. Those tears fell freely now as she slumped into the uncomfortable chairs.

Atlantic General Hospital
Surgical Waiting Room
Third Floor.

Skinner didn't like hospitals; he especially didn't like hospitals when he had to visit one of his agents. Regrettably, visiting agents in hospitals was something he had to do all too often.

Especially this agent.

Oh, he knew it wasn't always Mulder's fault; bad luck seemed to follow him around like a little black cloud. It also didn't help that Mulder's sense of self preservation seemed to have been short-circuited on too many occasions.

Thank God he had Dana Scully to watch his back.

Visiting Ocean City had not been exactly high on his list of priorities, in fact he most likely wouldn't have regretted never visiting the place. To have to come here under these sort of circumstances made it even harder.

He was alone for the short trip in the elevator to the third floor; enquiries at admissions had led him here to the surgical floor. Scully's phone call had been short on details so he had no idea what to expect. He looked up as the elevator chimed its arrival and the doors slid open. He looked around for a moment getting his bearings. A sign proclaiming 'waiting room' and an arrow pointing down the corridor greeted him as he exited. His shoes squeaking on the linoleum seemed unnaturally loud in the absolute stillness, and he found himself trying to walk quietly through the deserted hallway.

The corridor ended in a room typical of most hospital waiting rooms; well-used furniture, framed pictures on the wall that no one in their right mind would hang on the walls in their own house, the obligatory magazines stacked on the too small table.

At first he thought the room was empty until he moved fully inside; seated on an armchair the color of mud was a small figure, her forehead resting on knees that were drawn up to her chest, her usually vibrant hair, now dull and stringy. Were those pajamas she was wearing?

He moved forward, his hand out but arrested the movement, not wanting to startle her. Intentionally he twisted his shoes on the floor creating a hideous squeak. Slowly, the bent head lifted, and a pair of eyes that were red rimmed tired and lifeless stared up at him. Recognition took a moment to emerge but as soon as it did, she was moving to stand. Skinner's hand stayed her action as he took the seat next to his agent.

"What's the news?" He asked quietly.

Scully had to clear her throat before she could answer Skinner's question. "He's in emergency surgery now, he's been there for..." She looked to her wrist for a watch before realizing she wasn't wearing one. "What's the time?"


"Oh, um in that case just over two hours."

"Has anyone told you how he's doing?"

She shook her head. "I haven't seen anyone since they rushed him into the OR." She blinked a couple of times before lifting a hand to the tear that was making its way down her cheek. "He was awake and lucid and then..." Her chin trembled for a moment. "There's a possibility that the knife did some damage to his internal organs, they had to do an exploratory procedure to see what they were dealing with."

Skinner fished a folded handkerchief out of his pocket and offered it to her. She nodded gratefully before wiping both eyes.

"Do you feel up to giving me a verbal report?" He asked.

Scully nodded, thankful to have something to do other than wait. Her account was succinct and told Skinner everything he needed to know. The man who now lay in the morgue had purposefully followed his two agents to their present location. The intention to cause harm proven by the knife that had been removed from Agent Mulder's body.

"There will be an enquiry of course, but in my opinion you have nothing to worry about regarding the fatal shot. It's clear you warned him and you were protecting your partner."

Just as she opened her mouth to ask her boss a question, the doors to the OR opened and a scrub covered nurse stepped out. "Dr. Scully?"

Scully scrambled to her feet. "Yes."

"Dr Jervis will be out in a moment, he said not to worry, and everything is fine."

Her shoulders visibly slumped with relief and she turned back to Skinner, her eyes shining. "He's okay." The tears began in earnest, running down her face, but passing over lips that were turned up in a tremulous smile.

Skinner came up out of his seat, he put his hands lightly on her shoulders for a moment before taking her in his arms and holding her as her body shook with pent up relief.

Atlantic General Hospital
Room 247
23rd June.

The distant sound of the ocean slowly pierced the fog around his awareness. Little by little he became aware of something touching his arm, a feather light caress of the skin. He twitched his fingers and was instantly sorry that he had done so when the soothing motion stopped.

Smells and sounds gradually became clearer; he could hear a slow, steady beep and the faint odor of antiseptic assailed his senses. As the cloud of numbness lifted progressively from his mind, details began to fall into place.

Hospital, he was in a hospital. Again.

Carefully, he concentrated on trying to recall what had caused him to be lying in intensive care again. Everything seemed jumbled, disconnected, his mind seemed to skip from memory to memory; the feel of sand under his feet, flames flickering in a fireplace, waking up and seeing his partner sleeping next to him. His partner...


He could see her, she was holding a gun and then she was gone and there was someone laughing.

Water, crashing over his head in his mouth, his nose he was under water and he couldn't breathe.

His heart began a panicked beating and his chest felt like there was someone sitting on it. He tried to sit up, to get rid of the pressure, but at his first movement, his head exploded in a crescendo of agony that had his stomach rolling.

He was gasping for air and trying to make sure the contents of his stomach stayed right where they were. On the edge of his awareness, he could hear someone calling to him.

A woman's voice.

He swallowed several times, feeling a hand on his shoulder and then something hard pressed to his face. He struggled against the unknown object until he realized that whatever was pressed over his mouth and nose was slowly easing the tightness in his chest.

Gradually the tension eased and his mind cleared enough for him to make out individual words.

"Slow breaths sweetheart...that's it."

Recognition flooded over him and he forced his eyes open, cursing the tears that blurred his vision and stopped him from seeing her face.

Scully, she was there, leaning over him, talking quietly, and petting his face and hair with comforting fingers.

He felt grounded, secure, safe.

His vision cleared enough so that he could make out her features. She was smiling at him and he tried hard to find one for her. He must have succeeded because all of a sudden her eyes became almost luminous with emotion.

Mulder tried to speak and found that his throat was so dry that he was unable to get any words out.

Scully saw his dilemma and lifted a glass from beside the bed. She reached over, removed the mask covering his face and held the straw to his lips for him to take a sip.

He felt the cool liquid soothing his parched tissues and carefully nodded his thanks. The mask was replaced and he drew in several breaths of the moistened air.

"Feel better now?" She asked.

The mask made his husky voice even more muffled and Scully had to lean closer to hear him. "What happened...why am I here?"

A frown marred her smooth forehead. "What do you remember Mulder?"

He closed his eyes, letting the images stored in his memory wash over him. "You were holding a gun." He took a couple of breaths before continuing. "I remember the ocean. I could hear the seagulls and..." A smile turned up the corners of his mouth. "We were in a really big bathtub." The smile fled and he opened his eyes, frowning. "No, that's not right."

"It's okay." Scully soothed, combing her fingers through his hair. "Your memory is likely to be spotty in places, oxygen deprivation has that affect."

"Oxygen deprivation?" His eyes held a hundred questions.

Scully sighed and continued her gentle caress. "I'll start at the beginning, stop me if there's something you're not sure about."

It was only when she related the events of their first morning at the cottage that Mulder indicated he couldn't recall what she was talking about.

"So this was the guy who sent you the flowers?"

"And that terrible parcel."

"He was stalking you?"

Scully nodded.

"The asshole. But why?"

"I can't answer that question, I spoke to him for maybe two minutes after he hit my car at the airport."

"And he fixated on you on the strength of a two minute conversation." Mulder inhaled deeply and fixed his gaze on his partner. "I gotta tell you Scully, you attract the strangest people."

"Is that right now?" She leaned over and pressed a kiss to his forehead, her lips detected the faintest trace of perspiration and she straightened, eyeing him critically. "I think it's time you rested for a while."

His eyes pleaded for a reprieve as he gulped in another breath. "No please, I need to know."

Scully pressed a hand to his brow, he was definitely warmer. "Only on the condition that you lie back down." She reached to the bed rail and pressed the control to lower his bed. "Close your eyes." She instructed, stroking his face softly.

"Keep talking." He rasped. "What happened then?"

She continued her narrative, right up to when Mulder had been injured.

"Hmm." He murmured. "So I got stabbed and stopped breathing, hell of a way to spend a vacation."

Scully's lips tightened. "Not how I imagined it would go either."

Mulder forced his heavy eyelids open. "So, when do I get out of here?"

The exasperation in her voice pitched it higher than normal. "Mulder, you've undergone surgery, you've spent the last thirty hours or so on a respirator because of aspiration pneumonia and you're as weak as a kitten, not to remind you that you were not fully healed from the damage the tobacco beetles caused. What makes you think you're getting out of hospital anytime soon."

Silence answered her diatribe. Leaning down to see if he was asleep, she noticed a small smile on his face. She shook her head and resumed her seat next to the bed. Taking his hand in hers, she recommenced her soft petting along his arm. "I love you so much Fox Mulder." She sighed.

Mulder's lips moved and he squeezed her fingers. " too..."

Ocean City Mini Golf.
Two weeks later.

Mulder grinned as the bright purple ball careened off the rim of the cup and headed for the sidewall. It hit the baseboard with a solid crack, slowing its speed down slightly as it bounced back, gently it rolled to a stop poised on the very edge of the hole in the faded green felt.

Pasting a mock look of condolence on his face, Mulder turned to his partner who had remained in position at the tee off mark. Just as he opened his mouth to express his commiseration, a gentle sound from behind him froze him in mid action. Staring back over his shoulder, he noted that the ball was no longer in sight. He grasped his club firmly, stalked up the course and peered into the cup. Sure enough, nestled in the bottom, looking as if it belonged there was Scully's purple ball.

He gazed back incredulously. Her lips pursed in a secret smile, Scully was busy writing on their scorecard. Mulder retraced his steps, reaching for the white card and running his eyes over the tally.

It was not looking good, the numbers in the squares alongside 'Tiger Woods' Mulder were all over five, with a couple even in double digits. In contrast, neat handwriting had filled in the blanks next to 'Annika Sorenstam' Scully with several two's and three's and an occasional one.

Huffing out a snort of disbelief, Mulder eyed his partner. "You got some hidden talent that you neglected to tell me about." He drawled.

Scully pressed herself against him, her arms going around his blessedly intact body. Laying her head against his chest, she listened to his steady heartbeat. "Not really." She murmured before lifting her head and staring into amused hazel eyes. "Just one annoying little brother and one overachieving bigger brother." She closed her eyes in bliss as he settled his lips against hers.

Mulder pulled away after a moment. "Well, we've only got the eighteenth hole left and somehow I don't think I'm going to be able to redeem my reputation."

Scully let go of her junior sized golf club, absently noting the clatter as it hit the ground. She slid her hands downward and clasped them tightly against his jean-clad butt. "Therefore, the solution is to earn yourself a new reputation." She breathed. "And I distinctly remember someone who mentioned that practice makes perfect." She glanced up at him and raised an eyebrow in question. "Want to go do some practicing?"

Mulder licked his full lips and stared down at the woman in his arms. "I'd say without any hesitation, that idea is worthy of examination." He picked up her golf club and they walked hand in hand to the counter to hand in their equipment. "I think there's a possibility that the whirlpool bath may need an in depth investigation too."

"Lead on Tiger." She purred seductively.

Mulder closed his eyes as her passion filled voice washed over him. "I am Tiger, hear me roar."

Scully turned a sparkling gaze on him. "Oh, you will Mulder, before this day is over, several times at the very least."

The implication in her words was unmistakable, and as they headed to the car, Mulder made a resolute decision that the roars would be interspersed with sighs, whimpers and maybe even a couple of screams.

The end.