Blind Date

by Donna

Title - Blind Date
Author - Donna
Email address - URL - Rating - PG-13
Category - Pre-XFile
Spoilers - None
Keywords - MSR
Summary - Response to a challenge
Feedback - Please
Archive - Anywhere, just let me know

Disclaimer - Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunmen and Skinner all belong to
Chris Carter, 10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.

Blind Date

"Oh come on, the 'Ice Queen' will never fall for it."

"Why not? She doesn't know him; okay she's probably heard rumors, but so have we all. If he thinks she knows something about that weird case where the body kinda . . . melted." She shrugged. "Come on, after the way she showed you up at the last autopsy? I know you're dying to stick it to her, one way or another."

Peter thought about it; Sheila was right. The bitch did need bringing down a peg. He'd been head of his class in medical school; he'd wanted to join the Bureau. But she'd been recruited, and the instructors bent over backward for her. Okay, she was good, but her attitude toward him stung. He'd never had problems getting women - premed in college, then as an intern, but this icy redhead had turned him down flat.

If she could be taken down a peg or two . . . yeah, he'd enjoy that. "You really think we can get her to accept?"

"I think so. I mean she's ambitious and he did have a reputation as the golden boy of the VCS. Yes, he's 'Spooky' but he's supposed to be a brilliant profiler. If she has heard of him, how could she pass that up? It could enhance her career, or she'll think it could. Come on, she dated Willis."

"True. But you don't think the name will tip her off?"

"She's too busy with showing you up to know that many people. I'll have Karen talk up his credentials."

"Karen? You think she'll help us?"

"Not if she knows what she's doing." Sheila grinned and for just a second Peter was aware that the woman in front of him seemed more than anxious to help him with this. What had Dana done to her, but as she continued to talk and Peter was caught back up in it.

"Karen, I'm not interested in a blind -"

"Dana, come on. You haven't been out since you broke up with Jack."

"Jack and I didn't 'break up'; we just decided to see other people."

"Okay. What 'other people' have you seen?"

Dana stared at her, eyes slightly narrowed at being caught.

"That's what I thought. Come on, it's Friday night. If you have a terrible time you'll have two full days to recover. Besides, I know you want to work with Violent Crimes. You'd have an opportunity to make some contacts and you definitely have something in common."

Well, Dana couldn't exactly dispute that. Still . . .

"I can see you're weakening. Come on, it's one date."

"Have you ever seen him?" Dana finally asked.

"No, but I've heard he's hot."

"Hot. Why am I even considering this?"

"Because you want a life outside the Bureau. You know you do."

"If I want a life outside the Bureau, why would I date an agent?"

"Don't use logic on me Dana. Just do it. One date."

Dana rolled her eyes, but Karen's smile grew.

"Oh all right. You're sure he -"

"It's all set. He'll pick you up at your place at seven."

"My place? He'll know where I live."

"He's an FBI agent, he can find out where you live." Karen pointed out.

"I don't care. I'll meet him at the restaurant. I want to have my own car."

"Fine, just tell me you accept."

Dana groaned. "Will it get you off my back?"

"Only if you promise to let me be a bridesmaid."

Dana rolled her eyes, but gave a reluctant nod. She knew that Karen was only trying to look out for her. And she hadn't been out with anyone since she quit seeing Jack. But that hadn't been a breakup as much as a moving on, and she had been busy.

She entered the restaurant and looked around. She was a couple of minutes late and very annoyed at Peter. It was as though he had tried to drag class out so that she'd barely have time to get ready. That was absurd, he had no idea she had a date or anything about her personal life, but she had hoped to sign on to a computer somewhere and find out who this "Agent Mulder" was - at least see a picture.

There was an incredibly fine specimen at the bar - long and lean with dark floppy hair and beautiful eyes. She moved on, the FBI might seem like a 'romantic' place to work, but the agents never looked like those men gracing the covers of her sister's books.

Over there, that was probably him. She focused on a shorter man, on the stocky side, with pale, thinning hair.

She started to take a step when a voice at her side stopped her. "Agent Scully?"

She turned and looked up and up into the smiling face of the man from the romance novel cover.

"A . . . Agent Mulder?"

His smile widened. "Yes, I thought maybe you recognized me, but then you turned away."

She returned his smile and made a mental note to send Karen that new tape she wanted. "No, the blind part of this date held true. How did you know me?"

"You're the only gorgeous redhead to walk through the door."

She blushed slightly and looked down, then back up to meet his eyes, "and my file on-line has a photo."

She was quick, he liked that. "Doesn't change the fact that you're the only gorgeous redhead to come here tonight."

"Thank you,"

"Our table's ready if you are." She nodded and felt the fingers of his right hand touch the small of her back to lead her. Normally she wanted more personal space and she didn't know the man, but he seemed not to notice he was even in her space. He seemed very at ease in his body and she appreciated the way he moved. He reminded her of a large, and dangerous, cat. He knew how to wear clothes too. If she didn't know an FBI agent's salary, she'd think it was tailored for him.

He held her chair, then seated himself. "Would you like a drink?" He asked as the waiter approached.

"Ice tea, please."

For some reason she thought that amused him, but then she heard him say to the waiter, "Two iced teas please."

"If you'd like a cocktail . . . "

"I don't drink much."

She felt as though she had passed some sort of test, which was ridiculous, but she relaxed another notch.

But why was a man who looked like him on a blind date? She spent most of her time at Quantico, but she had no problem imagining women at headquarters throwing their underwear at this man as he walked by. Then she realized he was speaking.

" - surprised you were free. I've looked forward to meeting you."

"Meeting me? I don't understand?"

He smiled, but it dimmed a little, "I've heard about the new dynamo in forensics. I was afraid the line was so long I'd be retired before we met."

"Hardly." She said dryly. "Is this a consult or a date?"

He had the grace to blush, "a date. Now maybe the next one . . . "

She inclined her head, but made no commitment he noticed.

"So, you're a profiler?"

He blinked then and sat up straighter. " You, you don't know who I am."

"Well I, you're Special Agent Fox Mulder. Karen told me you worked in Violent Crimes. Should I know more than that?"

He nodded, but his smile was nearly non-existent. "Look, we haven't ordered, if you'd like to leave now . . . "

She looked puzzled then, "Why would I want to leave?"

"I'm 'Spooky' Mulder." He waited.

It took just a moment, then he saw the recognition in her eyes. Before she could speak, he did. "Why don't I walk you to your car."

"But I want to stay."

"Agent Scully - "

"Dana. Please call me Dana."

"Dana, this wasn't a good idea. I really thought . . . I didn't realize how 'blind' a date this was. You didn't have all the facts."

He was interrupted by the waiter bringing their tea. "Would you like to hear our specials for tonight?"

"Uh, no, we're not - "

"Yes, please." Dana interrupted him.

"Are you sure?"

"Very." She looked up at the waiter and smiled. He returned her smile and Mulder's relief that she actually wanted to stay, dimmed at little.

"I'll give you a few minutes to decide." The young man's eyes darted down to her breasts and back up, following his recitation and he was gone. Now why had he noticed that? He'd done the same thing himself from the bar when she had walked in.


"Uh, Mulder. I go by Mulder. I never really liked 'Fox'."

"Okay, Mulder. You want to tell me why you thought I'd want to leave?"

"Look, Dana, it's . . . let's have dinner and then you can - "

"Go home? Why don't you tell me where you got your nickname?" He grimaced, "That bad a story?" she asked.

What the hell, he was confident she'd never want to see him again anyway. He was used to that by now. As long as he acted like someone he wasn't, dates were fine, but be himself . . . That's why porn and 1-900 numbers were better. "I, uh, when I was at the academy I was doing my rotation in VC and I tried to write a profile on my own. I made a connection that was glaringly obvious to me, but no one else could see where I was coming from. Since they were at a dead end, they applied my idea and caught him in about two days. They were stunned and asked me to look at another case. I guess my mind works differently, they say I'm making these 'leaps' and have just been lucky, but the stuff is right there in front me for everyone to see."

"It hasn't made you popular." She said quietly.

He looked a little startled, she was quick.

"You're smarter than they are and you scare them."

"You're the one scaring me now."

She smiled, "What little I have heard about you is coming back to me. Couldn't 'Spooky' have been a compliment?"

"Maybe in the beginning."

"And now?"

He shook his head, "Why don't we talk about you."

He chose the dessert he saw her eyes dilate over when she refused for herself, with two forks. "Mulder, I can't eat that."

"Then we'll let it go to waste and some starving child in a third world nation will curse us both."

She chuckled, "You do have a different spin on things."

He smiled and didn't dispute her, taking a sip of coffee. He'd had a good time. And she hadn't bolted. Of course, Monday when she did check on him she'd no doubt change her phone number, but that was days away.

She watched him smile. He was shy. It had taken her a little while to figure it out, but he really wasn't used to this. Why he was insecure about women intrigued her and she found she wanted the opportunity to find out.

He almost laughed out loud at the look on her face when the chocolate concoction was placed in front of him. He handed her one of the forks. 'You know some of those curses could be painful, you could grow a third knee in the middle of your calf."

She chuckled and took the fork. "I'll have to rely on your vast knowledge of curses I suppose."

The humor left his face and she knew that somehow she'd said the wrong thing. "Mulder?" He looked down to see that her hand had covered his there on the table. Her touch made him feel better somehow.

"It's nothing. Eat up." After a slight hesitation she did, motioning for him to join her. He did, but enjoyed watching her enjoyment much more than the actual dessert. She put her fork down and watched as he slipped the last bite into his mouth. She was caught by his lips, they really were . . . luscious. And just when had she ever used that adjective before? Never mind, it fit.

She realized he was watching her watch him and she lowered her eyes.

"I don't want to press my luck, Dana, but would you like to see a movie or . . . "

"I'm enjoying talking actually. But I can see they want our table." She visualized coffee in some little place nearby.

He took that as the rejection he'd been expecting and nodded. He signaled for the bill and paid it, then rose and held her chair. She wasn't exactly sure what had happened but now he seemed to want things ended. What had she said?

He walked her to her car in silence. The stars were gone, behind clouds now and she spotted lightening in the distance. She pulled out her keys and unlocked the car. He opened the door.

"I appreciate you having dinner with me."

"I enjoyed myself." He looked into her eyes, she seemed sincere.

He opened his mouth to ask if there was a chance to see her again, when a fat drop of rain hit her head.

"You better get in. I think it's going to open up."

She nodded and ducked inside regretfully. This weather had lousy timing. He stood there, not worrying about getting wet, so she turned the key, but nothing happened. She did it again and still nothing. It didn't sound like a dead battery; there wasn't even a click.

Mulder opened the door to the car, and leaned in. "Has it been giving you problems?"

"No. It was fine. I guess I better call AAA."

Thunder rumbled nearby. "I don't think you're going to want to wait for a tow. I could give you a ride."

She looked up at him, he was getting wet standing there. She nodded and he took her hand to help her out. He seemed to hover over her as they hurried to his car where he let her in, then got in himself. Well, so much for having her own car.

"Look, I could take you home, then come back and wait - "

"No, that's okay. I can pick up the car tomorrow. I guess you're not rid of me yet after all."

"I didn't want to be rid of you."

"You didn't?" She looked at him.

"No, I thought . . . " He smiled then. "Never mind what I thought. You want to give me directions?"

She did and as he pulled out, her eye caught a couple in a car nearby. Funny, if she didn't know better she'd think it was Peter and Sheila.

It was raining hard by the time they reached her apartment. He pulled an umbrella from the back seat and walked her to the door.

"You're wet, Mulder. Why don't you come in and wait for the rain to slack off. I can make a pot of coffee."

"You sure you don't mind?"

"I wouldn't ask if I did."

"No, you wouldn't." He grinned.

"Have a seat." She turned toward the kitchen but he trailed her. He followed her directions and they made the coffee together. He'd just taken a sip from the mug she handed him when the lights went out. The apartment was plunged into total darkness for an instant before lightening, the brightest she'd ever seen, lit up every window. The hairs on her arm stood up and the thunder boomed immediately, directly overhead.

The next flash let her see his face. "Mulder?" He was frozen in place, but his eyes were dilated and the mug was in pieces at his feet. "Mulder, can you hear - " She stepped closer, but he didn't seem to notice. She touched his face and though he didn't look at her, his arms suddenly clasped her to him. The storm hadn't abated, but she knew the storm inside of him was somehow worse.

He breathed a name. It sounded like 'Samantha', but he said nothing else and she wasn't sure she'd heard anything.

"Mulder, come on." She stepped back and he allowed it, then she took his hand and led him to the living room. She sat him in the corner of her couch and quickly lit the candles she had on the coffee table and shelves.

When she turned back, he was watching her.

"How do you feel?"

He shook himself slightly. "Stupid, embarrassed, mortified."

She shook her head, "Want to talk about it?"

He looked past her then for a long moment, then brought a shaking hand up to his forehead. She turned and he reached out toward her.

"I'm not leaving. Just a second." She returned immediately with a small amount of amber liquid in a glass. "It's brandy. I know you don't drink, but - "

"Thanks." He took the glass from her and drank. He coughed once and smiled slightly. "I should get out of here."

"No. This storm is terrible and you shouldn't be driving."

"I'm okay."

"Or do you just want to get out of here."

He gave a half grin, "Do you blame me?"

Her face softened, "May I ask a question?"

He looked into her eyes, then shrugged. This 'date' couldn't get any worse for her. "Sure."

"Who's Samantha?" She asked it quietly, but the reaction was nearly as devastating as the storm.

"Where did you . . . where did you hear that name?" His voice sounded strangled.

"Mulder, I'm sorry. You . . . you said it in the kitchen."

"She, uh, she's my sister."

Dana waited.

"She . . ." he swallowed.

"Mulder, you - "

"It's okay. It's no secret. She disappeared when she was eight."

"I'm sorry."

He nodded slightly, "I was, uh babysitting. The . . . the lights went out and I woke up two days later in the hospital."

The lights, that's what had set him off. "How old were you?"


"That was . . . nearly twenty years ago, wasn't it?"

"Nineteen, last November."

"Is it still that . . . "

He managed a small smile. "Since I've already made a fool of myself, you might as well know. I, uh, I've been trying to remember those hours for decades. I can remember everything else - every book I've read, every course I've taken, every interrogation, but that's gone. A few months ago I made an appointment with a, a regression therapist."

"What happened?"

He shrugged, "the guy wasn't exactly reputable . . . or discrete." He gave an ironic sort of smile. "It certainly enhanced my nickname."

"And that's what you thought I'd heard."

After a moment he nodded.

"I hadn't. But you owe it to yourself to try to find out the truth. You should find someone you can trust."

He blinked at that, clearly caught off guard by her attitude.

"Have you had other . . . effects of the treatment?"

My dreams are more . . . vivid."


He nodded. They both were silent then, just sitting together.

"Dana, why did you accept this date tonight?"

The question surprised her, but there was no reason not to answer. It felt like this man yearned for honesty. She shrugged, "I haven't been out lately."

"Are you kidding?"

She gave him a small smile, "No. I was dating Jack Willis. Maybe you know him from the Bureau." Mulder nodded, he'd met the man a few times. "We decided to see other people, and I just . . . Anyway, Karen set this up. She said you were . . . hot."

His eyes widened and she grinned. "She also told me you worked in Violent Crimes, and she knows I'm interested in that area, so we'd have something to talk about."

"But we've barely discussed Violent Crimes."

"So, we didn't need a prearranged topic. We did fine on our own."

"We did fine? You consider this a successful date? Damn, Jack must be a major dud." He looked down, "Sorry."

To his surprised, she laughed. "Not always, but I haven't missed him terribly either. Tonight has certainly been interesting."

She couldn't read his expression, though she could see a myriad of emotions cross his face. "So, if I got up the courage to ask you out again . . . "

"I could pretty much assure success."

Even more expressions crossed his face, but she knew she recognized delight when she saw it. He looked even happier when she blushed. He finally seemed to relax a little. He glanced at the window. "The storm's moving off." He caught the fleeting look of disappointment on her face and was stunned. She was actually enjoying his company. What the hell, "Dana, since we didn't get around to talking about my job tonight, maybe we could get together again."

She tried to keep her face bland, but he spotted the twinkle in her eyes. "Yes, I think that would be a good idea. I'm free tomorrow night."

His mouth dropped open and she focused again on that lower lip. Unprofessional, but she was a breathing female.

"So, are you free tomorrow night?"

He nodded.

"Good. Since you know where I live, do you want to pick me up?"

"I'd love to, but you're going to need your car. I could . . . "

"True, maybe we could get together a little earlier and take care of that, if it's not an imposition."

A smile blossomed on his face. "Not an imposition at all. Before lunch, say . . ." Go for it Mulder, "Nine? We could have brunch."

"That would be good." As though waiting for her acceptance, the power returned and the lights flickered on. She didn't seem to notice and made no move to extinguish any candles.

"Well." He nodded again and rose reluctantly to his feet. "I'll see you at nine."

She walked him to the door. The thought of kissing him crossed her mind and she knew it had crossed his, but neither made a move. They both knew there was tomorrow.

He put his hand on the doorknob, then stopped. Something had been nagging at him since she'd talked about accepting the date. "Dana, did you say someone named Karen set us up?"

"Yes, Karen Connors. She's at the academy with me."

"That's not the name . . . do you know a Sheila Lewis?"

She blinked, Sheila? Had that been her in the parking lot, with Peter? Had they done more 'setting up' than she realized?

He wished he'd kept his mouth shut, was she upset?

Then she looked up at him, "Sheila, huh? I'll have to thank her personally."

He knew he'd missed something, but with any luck he'd get the chance to ask what. "Tomorrow."

"Yes, I'll see you in the morning, Mulder. Be careful, the streets are wet."

He nodded and at the last moment, let his fingertips brush her cheek.
For some reason it felt more intimate than a kiss and she knew blood had suffused her face again. He looked at her for a long moment, then stepped out into the hall, feeling happier than he could have thought. Imagine, a blind date . . .

He stood in front of his closet in his boxers. Not jeans and a t-shirt, she was more special than that. He pulled out a pair of gray casual slacks and pulled them on. Now shirt, no, not plaid. Shit! When was the last time he'd actually changed clothes twice before a date. Of course, when was the last time he'd had a date he cared about? He finally decided on a navy golf shirt he'd forgotten he owned.

He was at her door at two minutes to nine, having driven around the block twice.

He smiled at the sight of her, also in casual slacks, black in her case and a medium blue v-neck sweater than clung to all the right places.

"Good morning."

She smiled up at him. "Right on time. I called AAA, they're going to meet us at the car."

"Sounds like a plan." He stood in the door as she picked up a light jacket and a small purse. His hand found that spot on her back automatically and he walked her to his car.

They only had to wait a couple of minutes for the tow truck. Mulder had offered to check the car out himself, along with the admission that the only thing he knew about cars was where to put the gasoline. She had decided to wait with a chuckle.

They both got out to talk to the young mechanic, and watched as he opened the hood. He asked Dana to try to start the motor as he leaned over it. "Well, this is gonna be easy." He looked over at Mulder, who leaned closer, pretending comprehension. "Ma'am?"

Dana got out of the car and joined the two men. "You know what the problem is?"

"Yes ma'am. Someone disconnected these wires here."

"Someone?" Mulder asked. "Couldn't they have come loose by themselves?"

"No sir. If they'd just come loose, they'd still both be laying down there. Look where this one is. Think someone was playing a practical joke on you?"

Dana looked down at her hands for a moment. "Possibly. Can you fix it?"

"Oh sure, just a second here." He was as good as his word, reconnecting the wires and cleaning off the other connections. Once again he had her try the engine. It started immediately and the boy grinned at Mulder.

Dana gave the young man a tip and they watched him drive away. "I should have known how to fix that." He said.

"We both do now. Didn't you say something about brunch?"

"I did indeed. Do you want to take your car?"

"No. I'll lock it up. If my practical joker returns, we know how to fix it."

He started to ask the obvious question, but she had already turned away. It wasn't important right now anyway.

He got her to talk about her family over Belgian waffles. He was a little overwhelmed at the thought of four children in a family, and in awe of her mother for having to handle it alone so much of the time. Having two brothers and a sister sounded crowded to him, but she had obviously enjoyed it, even though her stories about her brothers made her sound put-upon. It explained why she took no slack from her male counterparts as well.

He started to ask a question about her older brother, when her eyes went past him and up. He realized someone was standing just behind him.

"Spooky!" the voice of the older agent sounded especially loud so close. "So, you datin' earth women now?" The man laughed at his own joke and Mulder didn't turn to look at him. Dana noted that his knuckles were white on the edge of the table. The older agent clapped his hand on Mulder's shoulder.

"Aren't you going to introduce us, Spooky?"

"No, as a matter of fact, I'm not." Mulder finally glanced up at the man.

"Ah, come on, don't be so selfish."

Dana's hand came to rest on Mulder's hand. "Are you ready to go? I am."

"Sure." He rose immediately and held her chair, then let his hand fall back to his side rather than rest on her back. She slipped her small hand into his and he gripped it. He didn't speak, but she watched his Adam's apple bob.

She looked straight into the eyes of the offensive intruder and he had the grace to blush and look away.

They walked away from him holding hands. He led her to his car and opened the door. She didn't get in, but stood looking up at him. "Are you okay?"

He shrugged, "I'll take you to your car."

She still didn't get in the car. "Do you have plans?"

He looked away, "I should probably do some laundry."

"I don't have any plans either. What if we did the tourist thing?"

"You, you don't want to get away?"

She slipped into the car and after a moment he shut the door, then rounded the car and got in himself. Once he was seated, she turned toward him. "I'm going to say this one more time and I want you to pay attention, okay?"

He nodded, now what was coming?

"I enjoy spending time with you. I want to spend time with you. If I didn't, I wouldn't be here."

He blinked and then nodded slowly. "I . . . I think I get it."

"Good, it's about time. Now what touristy thing do you want to do?"

He smiled at her then, with almost the ease he had displayed last night when he'd been in that other persona before he had allowed her to know him a little. "Some place we can talk. I want to get to know you better."

"Fine, want to walk around the Smithsonian?"

"Yeah." He started the engine and smiled over at her.

They drove in silence for a few minutes, then she turned slightly in her seat to look at him. She could see the instant tension, but pressed forward. "Mulder, does that kind of thing happen often?"

"That was the first time."

"Mulder." Her tone was warning.

He managed to grin; "I only met you yesterday."

"You know what I mean."

She wasn't going to let him evade. She might look like a tiny package, but . . . "They're not usually that blatant, but then I'm usually not out in public with a beautiful woman. I'm sure he was caught off guard."

"Mulder, that's harassment."

"He's never tried to fondle me."

"I need to know what he meant, 'earth women'."

"Dana, it's . . . let's forget about it. I'd rather talk about you." He looked upset and that's not what she wanted. She decided to let it slide, for now.

"So, you want another story about my exuberant siblings?" She capitulated.

"Actually, I'd like to hear about your practical joker." She looked away. "You know who it is, don't you?"

"I have my suspicions."

"And it wasn't a joke."

"No. It wasn't. But it turned out good."

"Dana, what he or she did was immature and it could have been dangerous for you. Since they knew where to find your car, I have to assume it had something to do with our date. Sheila?"

She glanced back at him. "You really don't forget anything, do you?"

"Nope." He waited.

Finally she sighed, "As we were leaving the restaurant last night, I thought I saw two of my classmates in a car in the parking lot. I dismissed it until you told me that it was Sheila who really set up the date."

"So I was part of the joke." He spoke low, but she heard the pain in his voice. She had to be honest with him.

"Yes, I believe you were. But it didn't turn out the way they wanted. They don't know you, they just believed the reputation, which makes them fools."

He met her eyes then and the surprise at her words was obvious. He said nothing, but pulled into the first parking spot he saw. He got out and opened her door, taking her hand to help her out. She didn't release it when she was on her feet.


He tried to smile, "What's a nice girl like you doing out with a guy like me?"

"Enjoying herself. Mulder, don't believe the reputation - I don't, I hope you won't. Come on." She led him up the slope to the reflecting pool.

The subject was changed by unspoken agreement, and they took turns pointing out places they enjoyed. He followed her into the Space Museum reluctantly, what if any of his co-workers spotted that. But at her urging, he began talking about a subject he obviously felt passionate about. Maybe some day he'd get up the nerve to tell her his theory about Samantha. Yeah, right . . .

When his stomach growled, she glanced at her watch. "Mulder, it's after five."

"I know."

"Why didn't you say anything?"

"I didn't want to break the spell." He sounded so wistful, she found herself wanting to take him into her arms.

"Let's get something to eat, my treat this time."

"Wait a minute - "

"You paid for the last two meals. Don't argue with me, I'm a federal agent."

He held up his hands in mock surrender. "Yes ma'am."

"So what are you in the mood for?" His look caused color to rise in her cheeks, but she kept her gaze steady. "Chinese?" She spoke dryly.

"Sure. There's a place in Alexandria that's good. They deliver, so I'm pretty familiar with their menu."

"Let's go." They walked in companionable silence back to his car. She watched as he took short cuts and side roads, and pulled up to the restaurant very shortly.

"You live in Alexandria?"

"Over on Hegal. I've been there about four years."

"You like it?"

He shrugged, "I never thought about it. It's just a place for my couch and fish."

"You have fish?"

"Most of the time. When I travel . . . "

She chuckled, "That's why I have no pets." He led her into the restaurant, and the owner snapped to attention when he recognized Mulder.

"Mister Mudder." He bowed to the younger man, "you comin' here? Ahh, pretty lady. Get you good table right now." He scurried off, but returned quickly and personally escorted them to the best table in the house. He held Dana's chair and winked at Mulder.

Dana's laugh when they were alone, warmed Mulder to the core.

He grinned at her, "Guess I don't bring many women here."

"That makes me special." She smiled.

"You already were." She looked down. There were so many layers to this man, but she was certainly attracted to what she'd uncovered so far.

They ordered and when alone again, he leaned closer to her, "I need to ask you something."


"About reputations. You said you hope I wouldn't just believe the reputation. What did you mean?"

She met his eyes and looked at him for a long moment. "You're not the only one at the Bureau with . . . "


"I have a reputation myself it appears." Now she wouldn't look at him.


She nodded. "I just found out about it, by accident."

He touched her cheek, bringing her face up to see into her eyes. They had tears in them, but she blinked them away, refusing to let one fall.

"Apparently I'm known as 'the ice queen'."

He looked at her for a long moment, "Because you're so together during an autopsy."

She managed a wry smile. "No, but thank you."

"That's ridiculous. How could anyone - "

"Mulder, you don't have to defend me. We've known each other, what, twenty-four hours?"

"Haven't you heard? I'm the best profiler the Bureau's had in fifty years." He took hold of her hand and caressed it lightly. "Who started it? You said you were dating Willis."

"No, Jack wouldn't . . . we didn't break up, we just decided to move on. We're still friends."

Mulder nodded. "Sheila."

Dana blinked then. "I . . . that's a possibility."


"It's . . . it's complicated and, and stupid."

"I can handle that." The pressure on her hand increased.

"There's a man in our class, Peter Doud. Sheila set her sights on him from the beginning."

"But he's interested in you."

She met his eyes - he was the best profiler. She shrugged.

"So you turned him down, but he still wasn't interested in Sheila."

"Have you been following me?"

But he was on a roll now, "You were recruited, right?" She nodded. "They weren't."

"I don't know for sure. I don't think so."

"You're smarter than they are and it scares them."

She gaped at him; he really didn't forget anything. "Mulder, thank you, but really it doesn't . . . it shouldn't matter what they think of me."

He grinned then, "Hey, I've spent most of my life not caring what anyone else thought about me. I've gotten good at it. In fact, there's just one person in the world whose opinion of me matters. That's you."

Her lips parted in surprise. He leaned in, the desire to kiss her overwhelming him suddenly.

"Here's your food, Mudder. You eat up, need strength for later." Mr. Tai winked at Mulder.

Mulder drew back surprised, and for an instant, wished he was armed. He managed to recover and hoped she hadn't realized. If she had, she made no comment. Instead she picked up her chopsticks and began to eat.

They ate in silence for a little while, then she reached for a shrimp off of his plate. "Hey!"

She grinned, "Got a problem?"

He shook his head and stabbed a piece of her chicken. The meal was lighter then, the things they had been discussing put aside for now.

They finished and put up with a few more comments from Mr. Tai, then he led her back out to his car. He turned to her after buckling his seatbelt. "You know, the last thing you are is an 'ice queen'."

She looked at him for a moment, "I'm not jumping into your bed."


The puppy dog look caught her off guard, even as she noticed the twinkle in his eyes. She laughed out loud. "Well, definitely not tonight. You said you needed to do laundry."

He grinned, "You busy tomorrow?"

"I have plans." She saw the light dim slightly in his eyes, so she continued, "I'm meeting my parents for lunch after Mass." The tension in his body eased. On impulse she heard herself say, "What to come?"

"What?" She couldn't have said what he thought she had.

"Do you want to join us for lunch?"

"I . . . I wouldn't want to - "


"No." He responded stung.

"You are. You're afraid to meet my parents."

"I was trying to be a gentleman and not horn in on your time - "


"What time and where?" He shot back at her.

She laughed then, "12:30 at my parent's house. Don't worry, I'll make sure they know you have no intentions and should not be grilled as a potential mate."

"I have no intentions?" But he looked as happy as he had when he had picked her up that morning. He memorized the address and nodded. "I'll be there."

"Then you better take me home now. All those housework things I didn't do today, need to be done."

"Yeah, and I have laundry to do . . . " He grinned at her.

She opened the door at his knock. The sight of him brought back the memory of last night's kiss and she could feel her cheeks grow warm. It had only been one kiss and in the parking lot at that, when they'd picked up her car. That was probably a good thing. If he did everything else as well as he kissed, she wouldn't have allowed him to leave her place - regardless of her declaration.

He was wearing another suit. Did he really own that many expensive suits or did his body just make the clothes look that good?


"Oh, hi. Come on in." Her blush grew and she stepped aside to let him in.

"You okay?"

"I'm fine." She turned toward the living room.

He touched her arm, "Are you sure? Dana, if you've changed your mind, I can go." He motioned toward the door.

She looked up at him then, "I haven't changed my mind. Not at all. I . . . I'm very happy that you're here." She saw his shoulder relax and his eyes lighten.

"I brought your mother flowers. Is that . . . okay?"

"She'll be as charmed as I am."

He smiled then, but she could see that he was nervous. It was kind of strange how well she could read his face after just a couple of days, but it was true.

They both turned as a dark haired woman approached from the back of the house. She smiled at him and held out her hand. "You must be Fox."

"Mulder, Mom. Mulder, this is my mother, Maggie Scully."

He shook her hand, "Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Scully."

"Maggie, please."

He nodded, "I, uh, thank you for having me over." He handed her the flowers he'd brought.

"They're lovely. That was very thoughtful. I'll put them in water, then join you. Dana, why don't you introduce Fox to your father." She smiled at Mulder, "I'll be back in a minute."

"It's Mulder." Dana muttered under her breath and he grinned at her.

"I don't think she's listening."

Dana rolled her eyes, "I can guarantee it. Come on, meet Ahab."


"My father. That's what I call him. Mulder, it's okay, he doesn't bite."


She smiled then and took his arm. An older man turned as they entered the living room. Mulder noted the closecropped hair and the military bearing. There were some things she hadn't mentioned.

"Ahab, this is my friend, Fox Mulder. Mulder, this is my father, Captain William Scully." The older man held out his hand and Mulder shook it.

"Pleased to meet you, Sir."

"You too son. I like meeting my children's friends. It doesn't happen often enough now that they're grown. Have you met my wife?" He glanced over toward the door.

"Yes sir. She's in the kitchen."

"I'm not surprised. Things have to be perfect when our youngest daughter brings home a guest."

"Ahab." Dana's voice was low.

"What? I shouldn't be honest with the young man?"

She rolled her eyes.

Maggie joined them almost immediately, announcing that lunch was ready and herded everyone that way.

They moved into the dining room where Mulder saw his flowers beautifully arranged on the sideboard. Mulder held the chair for Dana. He was grateful she was sitting beside him rather than across the table and wondered if that was her idea. He sat down and surveyed the food in front of him.

"Mrs. Sc . . . Maggie," he changed at her look, "this is incredible."

"You don't get many home cooked meals?"

"No ma'am. I haven't had a meal like this in years, literally."

Both women looked at him surprised.

Captain Scully helped himself to some chicken, then passed the platter to Mulder.

"How long have you and Dana been seeing each other?"

"Ahab - "

"Actually, Dana and I met on Friday. She had some car problems after work. I was able to help out."

Dana's eyes twinkled, but she didn't contradict him. This version would make things easier.

"You know, I met a William Mulder at the Pentagon several years ago."

"That, uh that would be my father. He's retired from the State Department."

"Retired, huh. As I recall he was working on a special project. His security clearance was the highest I'd ever seen. Do you see him often?"

"No Sir, I haven't seen him in several years."

"Years?" Maggie spoke up. "Where does he live?"

"He has a house on Martha's Vineyard."

"That's not that far." Maggie commented.

"The physical distance isn't the problem." Mulder took the dish of broccoli casserole from her father.

Maggie absorbed that statement, "What about your mother?"

"She lives in Connecticut."


Mulder nodded, "Since I was fourteen."

"I'm sorry."

"It was for the best." He took a sip of tea.

"Are you an only child?" Maggie continued.

"Uh, no. I had a sister. She," he swallowed and looked down at his plate, then faced the woman. "She went missing when she was eight. We, we never found her."

He felt Dana's hand come to rest lightly on his knee and the words didn't hurt as bad.

Captain Scully picked up the conversation then, changing the subject as Maggie watched the young man. She didn't exactly disbelieve his story, but it was difficult to believe they had met on Friday. The man was more than a little in love with Dana, and she hadn't missed the subtle touch of the man's leg when his sister was mentioned. Dana had already had that information, even though they had known each other for only two days.

The men had moved on to basketball now, so Maggie could observe them without drawing attention. Dana's hand was back in sight, but their body language made them seem closer than they were. She needed to have a conversation with Dana. At least this Fox was younger than Jack Willis, and a great deal younger than that Dr. Waterston.

Dana had made . . . mistakes in her personal life. Okay, she was a grown woman, but Dana would always be her baby daughter. Her husband's question caught her attention.

"How long have you been at the Bureau, Mulder?"

"Seven years."

"What made you decide to join?"

"Actually I was recruited, like Dana. I," he glanced over at Dana, "I have my Ph.D. in psychology from Oxford. I guess they saw something they liked."

Dana's smile was warming.

"What area do you work in Fox?" Maggie asked.

"I'm in Violent Crimes. I create profiles of criminals."


"It's my job to get inside of the heads of criminals, figure out what they're thinking, how to track them, help the police determine who their next victim might be and get them off the street as soon as possible."

The Captain spoke again, "Do you think it's a good career for a woman, the Bureau?"

Dana looked down at her plate, shaking her head slightly. She had no control over this conversation.

Mulder glanced over at her and smiled slightly. "I don't know, it could be hard on a woman. She'd have to be made of strong stuff. It's still a boys club for the most part. But from my perspective, I like having a woman check out the scene of a crime. They, as a rule, see things differently than men. They pick up on the little details, the nuances of a room that men who have been doing this work for years could miss. Maybe it's the fresh eye, but women seem to think differently, at least from me, and I need their insight.

"Since Dana has already battled her way through medical school and residency, I'd say she has the backbone needed. We haven't worked on a case together, but I'm sure her input would be very valuable."

The Captain and his wife exchanged glances. It was a different argument than the one Dana had given them, not that she needed their permission.

The rest of the meal was eaten mostly without Dana wanting to kick anyone under the table, and the two men seemed to get along even better than she had hoped.

"Mom, let me get that."

"No. I'm sure you and Fox have plans for the afternoon. Your father can help me get the kitchen ship shape. Go on, really. Fox, I hope we see you again soon."

"Thank you Maggie."

"Yes, you come back, even if you are misguided enough to root for the Knicks." Her father's eyebrow was raised, but his eyes smiled.

"Yes Sir. I'll try not to influence your daughter unduly." He shook the older man's hand and they headed for their cars.

"I think it's already too late to worry about his influence." Maggie remarked to her husband as they returned to the dining room to clear the table.

Peter had parked a little to the side, waiting for her to return. His guilt over what he and Sheila had done, both the date and the sabotage had bothered him with growing intensity. Sheila was ticked at him, but he wanted to check on Dana, even if he didn't 'confess'.

He watched her pull into a space and get out of the car, but she didn't move inside. Peter reached for the door handle; then stopped as he saw her face light up and she moved toward a car that had pulled in behind her.

As Peter sat watching, the long, lean body of Special Agent Fox Mulder emerged from the second car. It was the first time Peter had ever seen the man smile. Dana took his hand and led him toward the building. There was nothing icy about her now.

Shit! He ground the engine starting it and peeled out of the parking lot. Dana and Mulder turned at the noise. Dana's eyes widened and Mulder looked over at her. "What?"

"Let's go in. I want to change." He followed her into the apartment. "Make yourself at home. I'll be right out."

He nodded and watched her disappear into the bedroom. He moved to the window and stood looking out at the street. She was back quickly in navy tights and an oversized navy and white sweater. Lounging clothes, his mind supplied, they weren't going anywhere.

She smiled at him, "You know, you could lose the tie and jacket."

"Oh, yeah." He slid off the jacket and she took it as he removed his tie. "Dana."


"That car, the one that raced out, was it Peter?"

She hesitated for a moment, "Yes."

"Is he stalking you now?"

"No. I . . . "

"He came over to check on you, because you'd been forced to spend time with me?"


"It's obvious he's interested."

"Well that makes one of us. Would you like some tea?"

"Sure." She wanted him to stay, he felt positively light headed at that.

She returned with two tall glasses of iced tea and motioned for him to join her on the couch. "I'd like to apologize for Maggie and Ahab."

"What? They were great, and I really haven't eaten like that since I can remember."

She shook her head, "We met Friday, when I had car trouble?" She grinned. "Ahab may have bought that, but Maggie . . . "


"She had her radar up about you. She was definitely in 'Super Mom' mode."

"What does that mean?"

"Come on, Profiler Par-excellence, you didn't get those vibes?"

"No, but then my mother's never met anyone I . . . "

"You've never taken a woman home?"

He shook his head, "It never crossed my mind. If it helps any, I've never met anyone's parents before either."

She blinked at that, no wonder he'd been nervous. She decided to switch gears. "The, uh, the game you and Ahab were bickering about comes on in a few minutes. Want to watch?"

"Do you?"

"I'm not confident on the finer points of the game."

"Now there I can help you." He smiled.

She handed him the remote and made herself comfortable.

He answered the door with a scowl on his face. "What do you want?"

"Well, it's good to see you too." Sheila responded. "We were going to go over our notes, remember?" She waited a moment. "May I come in?"

Peter stepped aside with a sigh.

She dropped her bag on the chair and turned to look at him. "What's wrong?"

He hesitated, then faced her. "I should never have listened to you."

"Oh god, is this about Dana again? You cannot be feeling guilty about that. It was one date. I'm sure he knows she never even heard about the melting body and has retreated back to his coffin in the basement."

"Wrong again Sheila." He turned away from her, toward his kitchen.


"I was just over at her place." He didn't try to interpret the look on her face, but registered hurt and outrage at least. "She wasn't there when I arrived, so I waited. She showed up, followed immediately by Special Agent Fox Mulder. Let me tell you, she was no ice queen, in fact, ice was melting in at least a one block radius."

"You're jealous."

He jerked away, "I'm not up for company right now."

"Company. Right, I'll get out of your way." She grabbed up her bag. He didn't try to stop her. By the time she'd made it to her car, her fury had taken over. What was with that redhead? She wasn't that attractive, and her personality - she was so damn rigid. Okay, she'd been top of her class in medical school. Sheila knew what that meant, she'd been one of two females in her own class, but still. Dana had that weird undergraduate degree too. Physics? Not biology or chemistry. What was with that?

So what about the bitch attracted men? Jack, Peter, that older doctor - yes, she'd heard about that, and now someone with a loner from hell reputation like Fox Mulder. It made no sense!

Well, she might have the brains, but Sheila had the smarts. She'd had to, to get where she was. She needed Peter. Okay, she'd underestimated his feelings for Dana. It hadn't occurred to her that he cared about the redhead. But it could be fixed.

She stretched, waking and felt his arm around her. "Oh my god. Mulder, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to fall asleep."

"My stimulating personality?"

"No." She smiled shyly. "I had trouble getting to sleep last night. And I guess basketball doesn't really . . . " She sat up fully then, and he released her reluctantly. "Did you win?"

"Yeah. Oh, you mean the game, yes, in overtime."

She blushed at that. What had gotten into her, falling asleep with a man who should be nearly a stranger considering how long she had known him.

"Maybe I should go."

"Do you have to? I'm a lot better company awake."

He smiled, remembering the feel of her of her against him, relaxed, trusting him.

"What? Did I snore?"

"No, not at all. Why, uh, why did you have trouble sleeping?"

The color in her face grew and his eyes widened. Him? Thoughts of him had kept her awake? And she'd just asked him to stay. He leaned forward and she met him, their lips meeting, tongues exploring.

When they fell back, both gasping for air, they just looked at one another for a long moment. It was better than last night's goodbye kiss. A lot better.

"I came so close to doing that in the restaurant last night."

"I know. If I'd had my gun, I'd have winged Mr. Tai."

He gaped at her, "I had the same thought."

She smiled. "I know."

"Who are you?"

"I'm not sure when I'm with you."

He blinked then, "Is that good or bad?"

She managed to smile, "I don't know."

"I'd like to find out." He leaned in to kiss her again.

He tossed his keys on the table and shed his coat. It had been hard leaving her tonight. It was the right thing to do, he knew that. Ignore the fact that she fit into his arms, against his body, as though created to be there. Her lips fit his so damn perfectly. It was too quick; no one had ever gotten to him the way she had. They had spent a comfortable afternoon and evening, shared a pizza, and he had gotten out of there. If he'd stayed . . . well, it would have been . . . premature. It would have been incredible, but rash.

God, he wanted to hear her voice. He made his way to the bathroom and changed into his pajamas bottoms and a t-shirt. He sat on the couch and reached for the remote. Instead he picked up the phone and dialed without hesitation.


"Hi. Is this dumb?"

He could actually feel the smile before she spoke. "No, not dumb. I was . . . I was lying here hoping you would call."

Lying there. That brought up a hell of a visual and he felt his groin tighten.


"Yeah." His voice sounded deeper to her. "You know it's a good thing I left."

"Yes, it was."

"Listen, I don't know what I'll be working on next week, but if I'm in town, do you think I could give you a call?"

"Yes. You know, you could call even if you're out of town."

He grinned. "I think I'll do that. I should let you get some sleep. Good night Dana."

"Good night."

He put the phone down and stretched out. His hand cupped himself and his thumb moved over his semi-erect cock through the fabric of his pajamas. The phone ringing caused him to jerk his hand away. Was she calling him back?


There was silence for a long moment.

"Is anyone there?" Dana wouldn't -

"She's not what you think."

"Excuse me?"

"She's not the woman you think she is. You shouldn't trust her."

Sheila? Was this the best she could come up with? How the hell had she gotten into the Bureau in the first place? "Are you talking about Dana?"

"She didn't get to the top of her class using her brains. It was a different part of her anatomy."

"Are you saying she slept her way to the top?"

"She was involved with at least one of her instructors at the academy, and a doctor during her residency. She uses people."

"That sounds pretty harsh. How did you find out?"

"I checked around."

"To protect me? Do I . . . do I know you?" He had slipped into his 'Marty' voice. He could feel her hesitation. "Please, why are you looking out for me?"

"I . . . I didn't, I didn't want her to hurt you." The question, the tone had thrown her, he could feel it.

"Why? Why do you care about me? Tell me I know you."

"No, no we don't . . . I mean - "

"Could we meet?"

"Why? I mean . . . "

"What's your name? Please." Damn, he was good. No wonder Chantal seemed to enjoy their phone time as much as he had, just as long as he wasn't himself he did great with women. Too bad he was so damn tired of not being himself. What he had told Dana was true, she was the only person whose opinion mattered.

"I . . . I don't know."

"A name, just your first name then. Please, don't go away." He had her off balance. She hadn't expected him to come on to her. This was good.

"Sh . . . Sheila."

"Sheila. Can I meet you?"

"No. I should go."

"Will you call again?"

"I . . . I don't know."

"Please, Sheila. If you care enough about me to . . . please."

"I'll see. I have to . . . good night." She broke the connection.

What was the woman's problem? Why was she so determined to hurt Dana? His desire to relieve himself gone, he dialed another number. "Danny, it's Mulder. When you get this, could you do me a favor? I need a background check on a Sheila Lewis. She's at the academy and I want to know how she got there and if she's really qualified. While you're at it, check on Peter Doud as well. Give me a call and thanks."

He sank back down onto the couch and closed his eyes. Maybe if he could profile this woman, he could get her to leave Dana alone. He'd find Danny first thing when he got in tomorrow.

They hadn't seen Dana come up behind them, but Sheila was leaning in to Peter, a flush on her face.

"So now you're smitten with Spooky too?"

"I didn't say I was 'smitten'. I just said we had a very interesting conversation last night. Maybe what you thought you saw wasn't what was really happening, and maybe I was wrong about the man."

"You, wrong? How refreshing."

"You don't have to get snide, Peter. He is attractive. Maybe the stories about him have been embellished. He didn't sound very Spooky to me."

Peter's expression caused her to stop and look around. Dana's face brought a smirk to the other woman's face. "Have a nice weekend, Dana?"

Instead of responding, Dana brushed past them and on into the lecture hall.

"Dana - "Peter tried to stop her, but she didn't slow down. "You know, you're a real bitch, Sheila." He moved away from the blonde following Dana, but she had already taken her seat. He'd have to see her after class.

The lecture had already started when the door opened and a young woman entered. She handed a note to Dr. Guttman. He read it and looked up.

"Dr. Scully, get your things together. You're going to be missing classes for the next few days. Your services have been requested by the VCS. I have no doubt you'll learn more in the field than here anyway. I will meet with you later about your assignments."

Dana managed to rise, and couldn't stop herself, she glanced toward Sheila. The woman's face was bright red, her fury palpable, then spotted Peter out of the corner of her eye. He was white as a sheet and too stunned to move, though Sheila had her hand on his arm. They both knew the implications of such a summons, and exactly who was behind it.

"Report to Bill Patterson." Dana took the paper her instructor held out to her and nodded, then turned to the door. Karen was grinning ear-to-ear and mouthed 'call me' to Dana.

Dana's nod was almost imperceptible, then she slipped out of the lecture hall.

She came through the metal detectors and got her badge, then hurried upstairs to Patterson's office. Just outside the door she stopped and smoothed down her skirt and straightened her jacket. Then she took a deep breath and knocked on the door.

"Come." A man's voice called to her.

She opened the door to see a large office with a lot of activity. She glanced around, but didn't see anyone she recognized.

"Dr. Scully?"

"Yes sir." She turned to face the man that spoke.

"Mulder said you could be a help on a case we've just picked up. He said you were still at the academy."

"I am, but I am a forensic pathologist. I did my residency - "

"Fine. Report to Mulder; he'll bring you up to speed on the case."

"Yes sir." She turned as the door opened again and she watched Mulder enter the room. He spotted her instantly, as though he'd sensed her before even seeing her. She saw his eyes smile, but it didn't reach his lips. Fine, professional, that was good. Besides, she had to admit she was feeling a little unsettled by what she had overheard this morning.

She moved to him and held out her hand. "Agent Mulder." He shook the proffered hand with only a hint of a smile.

"Dr. Scully. Why don't I bring you up to date."

"Thank you." She followed him out into the hall and to the elevator. She noted that he pressed the button for the basement, but neither spoke with all of the other people around. The car emptied out on the first floor and they were alone. "Mulder? Why did you do this?"

"Because I think you could be a help on this case."

Her eyebrow rose and he grinned. "Okay, I wanted to see you, but I do think you could help out."

"The announcement made quite a splash in class."

"Upset Sheila and Peter, huh?"

"You could say that. I thought Peter was going to pass out and Sheila, she almost had an aneurysm. If you were going for shock, it worked."

His smile widened.

"You did this on purpose. Mulder, Mulder did you really call her last night? "

"Call her? No. Hey, I may have staged the announcement, but I was thinking about this yesterday when I left you."

"She said - "

"Scully, when I got in this morning I was handed this. It could be a big case, a murderer who targets women, three so far. I need a woman's point of view. And you are top of your class and a forensic pathologist. You're not here just because we've gone out. We can talk about the phone call later, I promise."

She looked into his eyes for a long moment, then nodded. "Okay. Thank you."

"Did you know you were already being discussed in higher circles, I just preempted them by asking for you first."

That surprised her, but she said nothing.

After a moment, he turned to his desk. For the first time she looked around the room. Why was he in the basement, so far from the others? And who did his decorating? The "I Want To Believe" poster was a little strange, but he had shone a lot of interest in outer space when they were at the Smithsonian. She took a step closer to look at the other pictures, but he flipped on the slide projector. "Want to get the light?"

"Uh, sure." She turned off the fluorescent lights and turned toward the picture showing on the wall. It was horrific, the woman had been brutalized. Dana swallowed hard and stepped closer. "Was she raped?"

"Yes." He pulled another slide, of a different woman, but the wounds were similar.


"The coroner . . . well, I would prefer it if you would do an autopsy yourself. I'm not . . . he may not be as reliable as we need for this case."

"When was she autopsied?"

"Yesterday. The first slide was the latest victim. There have been two others."

She nodded, "Where?"

"We fly into Little Rock this afternoon. How long will it take you to pack?"

She blinked, "Not long. You've already made the arrangements?"

"We need to move on this. Our flight is at 2:30."

She glanced down at her watch. "I need to go to my apartment."

"I can pick you up there."

"It's out of your way."

"I don't mind. You better get going. I'll brief you on the plane."

She nodded, "I'll see you in a little while." She moved toward the door, but with her hand on the knob, she turned back. "Mulder, thank you."

"You can do this. And I need you. Go on, I'll pick you up in an hour."

They made their plane with little time to spare. Fortunately the flight wasn't crowded, so they had a row to themselves. He took the aisle seat, tossing his briefcase into the window seat so that she would be next to him.

She didn't settle back as he had expected, and seemed to tense up when the engines revved. "Dana?"

"I'm okay." She managed a small smile.

He looked straight into her eyes, deeper than she'd ever felt before, then casually draped his arm over her shoulders. She seemed to move just a touch closer, though it might have been his imagination.

"For the record, Dana, I did not call Sheila."

She looked up surprised. Not what she had expected him to say. She relaxed a little more, he had seen her tenseness at flying and had made her physically comfortable and now was distracting her. And it was working.

"I . . . I didn't really think so. She must have seen me standing there and wanted to make Peter and me both jealous."

"Did it make you jealous?" She caught the surprise and the . . . the hope in his tone.

"A little."

He smiled then, "Well, I didn't call her, but she did call me."

"She what?" Dana sat up a little, but he pulled her back down against him, even closer than before.

"She's half a step above stupid Dana. She said she wanted to 'warn' me that you weren't the person you were presenting yourself to be."

Dana's mouth had fallen open and it took all of his will power not to pull her even closer and take advantage of that fact.

"What was I supposed to be?"

"A bimbo, sleeping her way through medical school and now the academy."

She blinked, "Doesn't fit the 'ice queen' rep, does it?"

"Nope." He grinned.

"I didn't you know."

"I know."

She sighed, "I have made mistakes."

"So have I. Do we need to exchange stories?"

She chuckled, "No. I don't think I want to hear about your women."

"My women? Yeah, then what would we talk about for the other three hours and ten minutes of the flight?"

She realized they were in the air and met his eyes. "Thank you."

He shrugged, "Want to go over the case?" He reluctantly removed his arm.

They had met with the sheriff, then he had driven her over to the hospital to use their facilities to repeat the autopsy. Now he stood watching her as she bent over the body. She was adorable in the greens, though he'd never say that. She was all business. He glanced at the body, and winced. It was bad enough looking at dead bodies, but here with the deep investigation . . . he had to keep objective. At least he didn't lose his lunch like some cops.

She reached for another instrument and he cleared his throat. She glanced over at him and noted his discomfort. "You don't like this part."

"Not especially." He grinned at her.

"I really don't need you to stay here. I want to be thorough. Why don't you meet with the Sheriff, see what else they have. I can call you when I'm finished."

"How long are you talking?"

"A couple of hours at least."

He was there in exactly two hours to pick her up. She was finished and scrubbing when he arrived. It took her just a couple of minutes to don her street clothes.

"Find anything?" He asked when she rejoined him.

"Yes." She handed him a small evidence bag.

He looked at it closely. "What is it?"

"A splinter."

"A splinter? Where . . . "

"Her vagina." He winced. "Mulder, he performed object rape in addition to assaulting her himself."


"It was post-mortem."

He closed his eyes for a moment. "It's late, let's get out of here. Do you feel like eating?"

"I'd really like a shower and to take off my shoes. Could we get some take out?"

He smiled then, "Sure could. Chinese?" The smile grew.

"Without Mr. Tai? Wouldn't feel right. How about Italian?"

Well, the blood didn't seem to bother her, but she'd have to have a strong stomach for this work. "Italian it is. I'll drop you by the motel, then go get the food."

"You don't - "

"It'll be nice and hot when you get out." He cajoled.

"Mmm, sold. Let's lock up the evidence and get out of here."

She answered the door quickly when he knocked. He had to check her out and he liked what he saw. Her hair was slicked back, but the tendrils that had dried were curling. She had on a large USN t-shirt and running shorts, but had topped everything with a three quarters length robe. She let him in and pulled the robe closed. He was positive she wasn't wearing a bra.

"Smells good." She took a deep breath.

"So do you." He responded and enjoyed her shy smile. "May I join you?"

"Of course." She scooped her papers off the small table and pulled up the other chair.

He steered the conversation away from the case, and Sheila. He knew what he had to do tonight and this respite would get him through it.

She cleaned up and put her files on the bed. "Do you want to work in here?"

He blinked at her, in here? With her? He didn't answer and her face flushed. "I'm sorry. If you have a routine . . . "

"No, it's not . . . no one's ever asked before. I don't know, I'm not good company when I . . . "

"I understand." She gathered up her notes and settled Indian style on the bed.

"Dana, really, I've never worked around anyone when I'm trying to get into someone like this guy's head."

"Mulder, it's okay. I'm not upset. I don't know how this is done, I've never done it either. If you need to be alone, I understand."

"The problem is, I don't want to be alone."

She smiled slightly then. "I'm not throwing you out."

He joined her on the bed then, not close enough to touch, and made himself comfortable against the headboard. "You could tell me what you found. Talk to me."

He stirred when she rolled over. Shit, he hadn't meant to get really comfortable, much less fall asleep. He had work to do. He slipped off of her bed and took the papers over to the table, then took the half of the bedspread he had been lying on and lay it over her. Before good sense could take over completely, he gently kissed her lips. She seemed to sigh a little, but didn't wake. He let himself out of the room.

The knocking woke her. She turned, stretching slightly. Why was she on top of the covers with the bedspread draped over her. Mulder! Her eyes flew open. He'd been here, explaining how he worked through the evidence.

The second knock jolted her back to the present. "Who is it?"

"Dana, open up."

Mulder. She scrambled out of the bed and hurried to the door. She glanced through the peephole, then hurried to let him in.


"They found another body. We need to get over there."

"Give me fifteen minutes."

He nodded and she looked at him more closely.

"Are you okay?"

He nodded, "We need to hurry."

"Of course. I'm sorry. I'll be right out."

"I'll find us some coffee."

The scene was gruesome, the rage and overkill blatant even to her novice eyes. The locals had waited for them and now Dana was taking the crime scene photos as Mulder talked to the neighbor who had reported the disturbance.

They had moved to another room, so the older man could get his composure back. Mulder was torn between talking to him, and keeping an eye on Dana. He knew she had picked up his emotional distance this morning and he wanted her to know it was the work. He shoved that aside, they could talk later.

One of the deputies took the neighbor home finally, after Mulder thanked him for his assistance. Mulder hurried back to the bedroom. She looked up as he came through the door "Is Mr. Abram okay?"

"Not really. The deputy was going to stay with him until his son can get here."

She nodded. "We're about through in here. I'll ride with the body and you can have the car."

He nodded. She seemed rather distant herself. They moved out of the way, so that the body could be loaded for transport and in the relative privacy of the hall, he touched her shoulder. "Listen, I - "

"Mulder." She smiled up at him. "It's the work. It's why you're so good at it. I don't want to be a distraction, I want to be a help."

He leaned down, close to her ear. "Do you know how much I want to kiss you?"

"About half as much as I want you to?" She grinned at the stunned look on his face.

They had loaded the body onto the gurney now. Dana leaned over and unzipped the bag, to check one last thing he assumed. He looked down at the dead woman. What he saw froze him - it wasn't the dead woman, not the victim that had brought them here. It was her, Dana, lying on the gurney, her beautiful red hair spread out around her peaceful face. He couldn't speak, he couldn't even move.

"Mulder?" Her hand on his arm brought him back. "Mulder, what's wrong?"

He still didn't speak. She motioned for the men to take the body out, then pulled Mulder to the side.

"Mulder, talk to me. What is it?"

He grabbed her upper arms in a painful grip. "I want you to go home, back to DC."

"What? No. I have an autopsy to do." She motioned toward the door.

"I know how he picks his victims."

Her eyes grew wide. That had been a point of frustration all along. "How?"

"Its women he sees at the crime scene. He comes back, to watch us work. Then picks an innocent bystander."

"Mulder, you can't know that."

"Dana, please, trust me. I'll have to do some checking, but I'm right."

"Okay, you go to the station and check. I'll go to the morgue and start on the autopsy."

"He's seen you. I'm sure of it. You're not safe. Hell he could already be targeting you!"

She just looked at him and his frustration grew. Why wasn't she listening? He knew what he was talking about. She must have seen his frustration because after a moment she nodded. "I can take a deputy with me. He can wait outside of the morgue."

His eyes closed and the relief actually bowed his shoulders. She had listened, she might not believe, but she had listened. He looked down at her then, and let one finger trace her cheekbone. "Don't leave the morgue until I come to get you. No one else."

She gave him a slight smile. "No one else, got it."

"I'm serious Dana."

Her smile disappeared, "So am I. I need to get going, and so do you."

Mulder arranged for her to ride in the ambulance, but to be followed by Deputy Miller. His directions to Miller were specific. He drove back to the sheriff's office, but his unease didn't lift. Seeing her body, lifeless on that gurney, had affected him, truly affected him in a way he had been unprepared for.

He tried desperately not to think of the victims of the crimes he investigated as people. It didn't help, and only made the depression worse when he worked.

He cornered the sheriff in his office and went over his theory that their murderer had been at the scenes of each of the crimes, which could mean it was one of his people, at the least someone he knew. They also checked, where they could, about whether or not the victims had been at previous crime scenes.

The other correlation hit him as he stared once again at the folders spread out in front of him. It was what he should have seen last night, but he'd been too comfortable. These women, all but one had traditionally male jobs. The first victim had been a loan officer, the second a lawyer, this last one worked as a lineman for the electric company. That didn't explain the waitress.

"Sheriff, look at this."

Wilkins moved over closer, and looked at the files with the grisly photos spread over the extra desk. "Yeah?"

Mulder quickly explained his theory.

"So you're saying he's angry at women who get 'men's' jobs?"

"Yeah, except for the third one. A waitress is traditionally a woman's job."

"Well Mollie only did that part time."

"Part time? It's the only occupation listed." He pointed at the file.

"Well, she wasn't official yet."

"Official?" Mulder was not going to hit the guy, not yet.

"She was a volunteer fireman, well fire fighter I guess is the correct term now. She hadn't completed her training, but she was good."

That was traditionally a male role. He had hit on it. But he should have realized this last night. Dana was in danger from this guy because he'd been slow. She was a doctor, a pathologist and an FBI agent - how traditionally male could you get?

He pulled his phone from his pocket and dialed her cell.

He looked up as Miller approached the desk, and felt fear grip him. "Why aren't you with Agent Scully?"

"Dell told me you needed me here. He came to relieve me." The confused deputy looked up at Mulder.

"Dell? Who's that? Did you send him?" Mulder turned on the sheriff, even as he pressed redial on the phone.

"Dell? He's a guy that hangs around here. I've deputized him a couple of times. Real helpful guy."

"A civilian?"

"Well, yes. He applied for the police academy this past session but didn't get in."

"Why not?"

"Oh, space. I'm sure he'll get in next time."

"Space?" Mulder felt a familiar sinking feeling. "Who got the last space this time?"

"Let me think, Grace, Grace Madison. She had a better grade on the entrance exam."

"A woman. How did he take it?"

"He was disappointed, maybe a little sore. He took some ribbing because a woman - "

"It's him."


"This Dell, he's the guy that been murdering these women. He's been at the crime scenes; he's seen the women. Shit! I should have - He's got Dana. Where would he take her?"

The two men in front of him were still gaping at him, unable to make the leaps he was making at this lightening speed.

"Did you hear me? Where would he have taken her?"

"Now listen just a minute Agent Mulder. You don't even know that she's not still in the morgue, checking out the body."

Mulder held up his cell phone, "She hasn't answered."

"So she's got her hands in the woman's body." The sheriff put his arms out to try to calm him, clearly put out by the man's attitude.

"Come on." Mulder grabbed his jacket.

"I'm coming?"

"You've got the siren and lights. Now!"

The sheriff sighed, but he did move to follow Mulder. "Miller, hang out here. Call me when Dell shows up."

The sheriff's attitude had changed abruptly when they arrived at the hospital. Neither Dana nor Dell was anywhere to be found, but the body had been left out, exposed, the autopsy half finished. The blood spot on the floor near the door had two red hairs caught in it

Mulder felt blackness creeping in on him. He'd been right, but he hadn't followed through enough to protect her in time.

"Where would he have taken her?" His voice was low and harsh. The sheriff winced. "He murdered the other women in their homes. They let him in, that's why there was no forced entry. He's got a uniform, doesn't he?"

Sheriff Wilkins nodded.

"Okay, they felt safe." Mulder had gone inside of himself again. "Why these women. There were other women that witnessed the clean up, from behind the lines. What am I not seeing?"

The sheriff stood there, watching him.

"The victim, the first one, she was a loan officer. Did he have any money problems?"

"Uh, listen - "

"You listen! This madman has my partner, a woman doing what he thinks is a man's job. Tell me what I need to know."

"Yes, he had money problems. He ended up having to sell his family home after his Grandmother died. They wouldn't extend the loan."

"She was the first victim. He liked the feel of it, he felt justified. Where would he take her?"

"He lives in a, it's like a boarding house. He couldn't take her there."

"The home he had to sell - "

"The new family is there."

Mulder reached for the man's lapels, ready to shake him, but realized in time and forced himself to step back. "Are there outbuildings on the property?"

"I haven't been out there. We need to talk to Miller."

"Come on, he can meet us out there. We don't have any time."

Mulder was moving toward the door, ready to break into a run as soon as he was outside of the building. Wilkins hurried to catch up. He had put her in this danger, he had to find her, he had to save her.

It was Deputy Miller who spied Dell's car hidden in a wooded area of the old farm road. The closest building was an old shed, used to store equipment closer to the fields. Dell had obviously had to improvise quickly with a woman who had no home in the area.

They heard no sounds coming from the building, but Mulder's senses were on high alert. The sheriff had only pulled his gun reluctantly at Mulder's insistence.

By sign language, Miller indicated he would go in first. Mulder felt as though they were placating him, but he needed the back-up.

Miller cautiously pushed the door open, but the groans from the hinges spoiled any hint of surprise. Then Miller was on the ground, struck in the head, unconscious. Mulder moved then, as the sheriff stooped to check for a pulse.

Dell had moved back into the shadows where Dana lay, knowing he was caught, but desperate to finish his work before they had him.

Dell raised the piece of wood he had slammed into Miller's head, but Mulder's bullet caught him on the down swing, knocking him back. He lunged forward once more, but another bullet, from behind Mulder, finished the job.

Mulder was already on his knees beside her. "Get an ambulance!" He barked at the sheriff and heard him race off toward the cars.

"Dana? Dana, its Mulder. You're safe now. Can you hear me? I'm sorry, I'm so damn sorry."

Her eyelids fluttered, but didn't open. He saw her split and bleeding lips form his name. Relief threatened to topple him, and he found himself sitting on the wooden floor at her side.

"It's going to be okay." He pressed a kiss to her forehead and felt her relax under his hands.

He was in a hurry; he wanted to get to the hospital. He needed to see Dana, but he had to get this out of the way. He picked up the phone and dialed.

"Come." Sheila opened the office door at his biding. She had stopped to freshen her lipstick, fix her hair, and unbutton the top two buttons of her blouse.

"Agent Mulder." She practically purred the words and he struggled to keep his face impassive.

"Ms. Lewis."

"Please, call me Sheila."

The huff from the corner of the room drew her attention and Mulder saw a look of unease come over her face. Peter? "What are you doing here?"

"Agent Mulder asked to see me."

"Please," Mulder motioned to the chair. She sat, but didn't cross her legs provocatively. Mulder found himself a little disappointed, and a lot amused.

"Ms. Lewis, Sheila, I thought you should know that you've been the subject of an unofficial investigation."


"I just decided to check into your 'credentials'."

He saw her face pale and he pushed a file toward her. Peter just observed from the far side of the room. After a moment, she took the file he extended. Mulder was watching her, but she had dropped her eyes. She opened the manila folder and began looking at the papers. Her face lost even more color. After a couple of minutes, she closed the file and faced him. "So?"

"So," he smiled, "they'll be asking for your resignation. You might want to get your resume together."

"Because of Dana? Because we set you up on a blind date?"

Peter jerked at the word 'we', but Mulder's look kept him quiet.

"Actually I'd like to thank you for that, but the rumors, the lies about her reputation, come on Sheila, the sabotage on her car? What is this, high school? You don't have what it takes to be in the FBI. Personally, I don't think you have what it takes . . . never mind."

"What about Peter? Are you throwing him out too?"

Mulder turned to look at the man, "No. I don't have the authority to throw either of you out. Besides, he might be able to cut it. The Bureau needs agents willing to . . . to work hard and do the scut work."

"Dana - " Peter started, but Mulder's narrowed eyes stopped him for a moment. "She doesn't have to worry about . . . I'm sorry."

"Sorry? What you are is a wimp." Sheila hissed at him. "No wonder she wasn't interested in you. What woman would be?" She turned to face Mulder then, "Fine, I'm out. You gentlemen can run the damn Bureau, but you," She looked at Mulder, "You're no better for her than he is. I didn't make up your reputation, you earned it. You really think a woman like Dana Scully could stay interested in you? Has any woman ever stayed interested in you?" As she watched, his face became totally impassive; no expression at all graced his features. For the first time, she felt fear.

He pushed the door opened quietly, she was asleep. He was pleased to see that her bruises were healing. A movement caused him to look to the side of her room. Her mother stood and motioned for him to step outside. She followed him, pulling the door closed silently.

"Mr. Mulder."

Not Fox, he felt a pang of dread. "Mrs. Scully. How is she?"

"Better. They may let her go home tomorrow."

"That's wonderful." He glanced at the door.

"Mr. Mulder . . . I don't think it would be a good idea for you to see her. She, she's confused about her . . . her career path right now. Her father and I would like to see her return to medicine. You have, you have a great deal of influence over her and we, her father and I, would rather you not attempt to talk her into staying with the Bureau."

"Mrs. Scully, I . . . I would never try to convince her to do something she doesn't want to do."

"That's the problem Mr. Mulder; she doesn't know what she wants to do. Please, for her sake, would you step away at this time?"

He glanced at the door one more time, then settled his shoulders. "You think that's for the best."

"I do. I'm sure you are a very nice man, but - "

"No Mrs. Scully. I'm not a nice man. I was able to get into the head of the man that hurt Dana. I understood him, I was able to find him. Someone that can do that . . . we should be alone. I knew that before I met her, I just forgot for a little while. Would you tell her I'm glad she's doing so well. No, no don't do that." He held out his hand, "It was very nice meeting you and your husband Mrs. Scully. You have a wonderful daughter and I . . ." He closed his eyes for a moment, then opened them and looked at her, "Goodbye."

She watched as he turned and walked toward the elevator. She very nearly called him back and did take a step toward him, but stopped herself. He wasn't her worry, Dana was.

She put her coffee down, she couldn't let him see that her hands were shaking. She wasn't even sure why they were. When the Bureau had called for an assist on an autopsy, it hadn't crossed her mind that the AIC could be Mulder. They hadn't spoken in nearly two years.

The timing was unbelievable. Just last weekend she had been helping her mother in the garden when the older woman had brought up Mulder. Dana had tried to change the subject at first, but Maggie Scully would not be dissuaded.

Finally Dana sank down on her knees beside her mother, mouth open. "You asked him . . ." She lost her voice. Her mother had no idea what she had done. The man was so insecure. He had been so incredulous that her parents had liked him and then . . . oh god.

She'd left her parents home in a daze, allowing herself to remember that time. A time she had worked so hard to put aside, to forget. She was stunned that it was still so vivid.

She'd been a little surprised when he hadn't come to the hospital, but knew that he had a lot of work to do to finish up the case. Even though there would be no trial, and the shooting had been witnessed by the sheriff, there was a lot of paperwork to complete. She was hurt when he didn't call after she was released. He had to know she was home. In the beginning she had jumped at every call, and, though she had never admitted it, she had called him once. She hadn't had the courage to leave a message when the machine picked up.

Her memories of the actual rescue were muddled. She knew that she hadn't been raped, but it would have been soon. He had already removed his belt and beaten her with it. She had been drifting in and out of consciousness, but knew the sound of his voice, Mulder's voice. A feeling of peace had come over her. She had heard the shots, then his arms were around her, his voice in her ear whispering apologies over and over. He hadn't kissed her lips, which were torn and bleeding but she had a vivid memory of his lips on her forehead, as though branding her with his mark.

She had returned to a changed class. Peter was there, but more subdued. He had welcomed her back along with the others, but had not attempted to get close enough to even shake her hand. But she was truly shocked to find Sheila gone. Karen had been more than willing to bring her up to date.

"You haven't heard? Oh Dana, it was the biggest scandal! No one knows how the news came out. We hadn't even heard that you had been injured yet. They decided to redo a background check on her for some reason and apparently re-interviewed some people that had recommended her. It all came out. Instead of being in the top 10% of her class, she was in the bottom 5% and wouldn't have been there if she hadn't been sleeping with, as it turns out, several of her professors. And she was getting 'help' here as well. Agent Davies is no longer at Quantico, though no one wants to talk about it. I heard he was transferred to Minneapolis."

She had known instantly that Mulder had been behind this. He'd run the investigation while she was in the hospital recuperating. That was the night she had called, but hung up. If he'd cared enough about her to look after her, to protect her this way, then why . . .

After several weeks, she was given an assignment that took her downtown. After a great deal of tossing and turning the night before, she had made up her mind to confront him - for better or worse, she needed to know why.

The door to the office had been partially open and she'd seen him, his back to the door. He was poring over some file. Just the sight of him had sent a thrill down her spine. Before she could chicken out, she tapped on the door.

"Yeah." He turned surprised.

She'd never seen him in glasses. God, the man just looked better every time she saw him. Several expressions flitted across his face before he had control of himself. He rose finally, and stepped toward her. "How are you?"

"I'm good. All healed, well mostly." She smiled softly at him. "Am I interrupting?"

"I'm working on something for Patterson."

She nodded, "I won't take long. I just . . . Mulder, what did I do wrong?"

"Wrong?" He seemed genuinely puzzled.

"I . . . you didn't call, or . . . "

"I kept up with your progress. I've just been very busy."

"Busy." She repeated as though she didn't understand the word. "I see."

He stood there, obviously impatient to see her go. Instead she plunged on, "Mulder, you know I don't blame you for what happened, don't you? You saved me; that's what I remember."

"You wouldn't have needed saving if I hadn't dragged you out there. I should have . . . "

"Was it because I'm so inexperienced? Did I - "

"No. I was the senior agent. The whole debacle was my responsibility."

"But it wasn't! You knew. You'd figured it out and I didn't take it seriously enough."

He smiled slightly, sardonically, "I'm used to that."

"Mulder, don't - "

"Dana, I really need to get back to work."

"That's it? You want me to leave?"

"I think that would be for the best. Don't . . . I really enjoyed meeting you - "

"Meeting me?" Her eyes widened.

"Spending time . . . Listen - " The phone rang interrupting him. He grabbed the receiver, trying not to show his relief. "Yes sir. Yes. Right." He hung up. "Dana, I have to - "

"Of course. I need to get to my appointment. It was nice seeing you and . . . and thank you again for saving my life." She turned quickly, so that he wouldn't see the tears threatening to fall from her eyes, and left the room. She didn't see him reach out to stop her, or the look of anguish when he let his arm drop.

She hadn't looked back.

Finally she had managed to put it aside, she had begun dating and now was in a relationship with Ethan. She was over Mulder, completely. This assignment would prove that, besides she hadn't really been in the Bureau long enough to have a professional reputation, not like now. Okay, the 'ice queen' label had stuck. Dana occasionally wondered if Sheila knew that she had actually helped with that particular rumor. The men she had to deal with understood that she was all business. She could do this. She squared her shoulders and turned toward the door, she was ready to face him now.

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