Returnees

by Donna

Title - Returnees
Author - Donna
Email address - donnah@donnas-stories.com URL - http://www.donnas-stories.com/
Rating - PG
Category - AU, MSR, angst
Spoilers - None
Keywords - MSR, angst
Summary - What if she'd been taken earlier . . . Feedback - Please
Archive - Anywhere, just let me know so I can visit

Disclaimer - Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunmen and Skinner all belong to Chris,
10-13, and Fox - Bless them for it!! No infringement intended.

Returnees

Mulder burst into the office. "Diana? You here?"

"I'm here, what's wrong?" She looked up from the file cabinet.

"Nothing, something's right for a change. I got a report of activity off the scale. We need to get to Oregon, right away."

Diana tried to hide her sigh. Okay Fox was younger than her, but sometimes he acted a lot younger. His enthusiasm had lost some of its charm, especially since it was part of her assignment to reel him in.

"Fox, what makes you think Blevins is going to let us go off to watch lights in the sky?"

"The stellar performance I just put in with the VCS." He grinned at her. "And I've already cleared it."

"You're kidding." She gaped at him. Blevins had okayed this? She needed to get word to her people.

"Nope." He was searching through his desk and not watching her. She sighed again, this passion of his was growing - a lot faster than his passion for her was. They weren't going to be happy.

"Ahh, here it is." He pulled something from the bottom drawer. "Our flight is at three. See you at the airport." He didn't even look over at her as he exited the office.

Damn it! She didn't dare call from here. She'd have to hurry.


She made the flight. He'd been pacing impatiently at the gate, then herded her onto the plane.

"What kept you? This is one of the most important trips for the XFiles since we got started."

"Sorry, but you did spring this on me." He followed her onto the plane and they took their seats. After they were settled, she turned to him. "Where did you get the tip? Fox, not those weird friends of yours."

He wouldn't meet her eyes.

"Oh God, Fox. You're going to get us fired. No wonder Blevins gave the okay. He probably knows and this is a set up."

"He doesn't know about these guys. No one does. That's the way they want it."

"So you keep telling me. You don't even trust me enough - "

"Diana, it's the way they want it. It's part of the deal. They're paranoid. I don't want to make it worse. As long as their rules don't compromise me, I've got to live by them."

"Don't go over it again, Fox. Just tell me what we're investigating."

"For the past two nights there has been unprecedented activity over three counties in Oregon. Lights have been reported by upstanding citizens, chased by cops . . . then last night a man showed up just outside of Lone Elder. He was nude, disoriented. I think he was returned."

"Returned?" Diana stared at him. "You think this man was abducted and then . . ." He was looking at her, those damn beautiful eyes of his. She sighed, he was so frigging sexy. "Fox, don't get your hopes up." Or get us killed, she thought.

"Who me?" He grinned, and handed her the file he had amassed, then leaned his seat back and closed his eyes.

She took the information, but since she could watch him unobserved, she seized the opportunity. He was unlike anyone she'd know. Besides being brilliant and an incredible, giving lover, there was no artifice about him. He knew how smart he was, but he didn't flaunt it, and as for his looks - hell he didn't even seem to realize.

She knew her own assets, she'd exploited them often enough. It had bothered her that he was younger, but he hadn't cared, if anything he seemed to appreciate her experience, and not just in bed.

She still remembered how startled he'd been when she invited him back to her place. It was as though it had never crossed his mind that she would want him. The man obviously hadn't walked through the secretarial pool lately.

As far as she could tell, he'd been 'faithful' to her. Of course that implied a level of commitment that she didn't think he felt. Still it was a start.

Yes, it bothered her that he had never invited her to his place. Oh, she'd seen it. She'd 'dropped by' exactly twice and he had gotten her out of there as quickly as possible both times. Hell, she'd never even seen his bedroom.

For now she needed to impede the investigation to the best of her abilities, without compromising herself. She'd thought about missing the flight, but realized as she observed him from a discreet distance, that he would have left without her. So she had finally joined him. It would be better to be on-site and see what was going on.

She smiled as his breathing became deeper, more relaxed. She enjoyed watching him sleep, though she'd had little opportunity. He refused to stay the night at her place. She wasn't sure why that was, but he was adamant about it - kind, but adamant. So she only got to observe him in situations like this. He was often restless, jerking awake in the car or wherever, as though from a bad dream, but he wouldn't talk about it.

She sighed and opened the file. Might as well know as much as possible.


They were met at the airport by two men and a woman, all very anxious to meet 'Agent Mulder' and wary of her. No doubt they'd been sent by those friends that he refused to discuss.

When they got back, she'd have to make a serious attempt to locate them. Obviously their activities had stepped up.

After introductions, they were led to a motel chain they knew well and checked in. The man that had been 'returned' was being held for observation. This trio had an opinion on that too, which Fox seemed to share.

Since that avenue was closed, they investigated the site where he had appeared. The woman, Lisa, had been nearby and actually seen him before officials had herded him off.

Diana made a note to check with her people about that. Lisa had gotten close enough to see the bruises on the man's body.

Ed, the leader of the group, turned to Mulder. "The moon is two days past full, so there's plenty of light. That's got the government people concerned I think. They had roadblocks out last night. Fortunately they're not from around here and didn't know all of the accesses. I sure hope you see something tonight."

"Me too. What time should we be out here?"

"It'll be full dark by 8:30."

"What about those roadblocks?" Mulder asked.

"We'll get you in, don't worry. We'll meet you at the diner at 7:30 and drive you out here ourselves."

"We appreciate this." Mulder shook his hand.

They smiled and nodded at him, their looks at her were more guarded, though Mulder didn't appear to notice.

He managed to keep his cool in front of the others, but Diana could feel his excitement. She knew what his hope was, that his sister would be one of those returned. He'd never mentioned the sister to her, but she knew the story and had read the file. The sister was the real reason he'd even joined the Bureau - the final deal-maker when he'd been recruited.

Diana had no doubt that whoever had made that decision was no longer around to enjoy the fruits of civil service.

She'd hoped he would open up to her, talk about his sister, but he held that close to his chest. He didn't trust her enough. The saving grace was she knew he trusted her as much as he could trust anyone. He didn't talk about his childhood either, but it had obviously been difficult for him. She didn't blame him for not trusting. She'd be here when he got ready.

They ate an early dinner to compensate for the lunch served on the plane, then he took a run, trying to work off excess energy until time to meet Ed. The man was practically crackling with anticipation.

They met Ed at the diner as arranged and he drove through the country to get them in place. Lisa joined them there, as well as several other people. They settled in to wait, with Mulder listening to their tales of encounters.

Diana kept quiet, observing. Mulder was grinning like an idiot. Well, most of the stories were absurd, but she knew him. Eventually he'd check every one of them out. He never forgot anything. It was like working with a damn sponge at times.

As it got dark, the level of tension went up. She thought Mulder might implode but frankly she hoped nothing happened and they could get back to the motel. It was a nice warm night, but her idea of fun did not include sitting in the woods with a bunch of lunatics and bugs.

Mulder looked over at her suddenly. "My watch just stopped." Before she could respond, there were lights in the sky and a . . . a hum.

Ed and Mulder were on their feet, running toward a light deeper in the woods. Diana was up then too, chasing them. By the time she caught up with them, they were kneeling beside a man.

"Diana, check him out." Mulder rose.

"Where are you going?"

"It's still happening. I'm going to follow the light. Diana, get evidence off the man. You know what to do."

She nodded and he took off again. Diana looked over at Ed, then focused her attention on the comatose man. She knew there was no stopping Mulder for now.

Mulder was running through the trees. He'd seen the light stab down in several locations, but continue on. Then suddenly whatever held the light was directly over him. Whatever it was, it was large enough to obscure the stars. He stood staring up at it for a long moment, a feeling of weightlessness tugging at him. Then the light stabbed down at him, blinding him.


He woke disoriented. He was on the ground, what the . . . something was on top of him. He reached down and touched flesh. He carefully sat up and looked at the . . . the young woman lying partially atop him.

He had enough light to see that she was nude and had strangely shaped bruises on her body, like the man that had been returned the night before as well as the man he'd left with Diana. Her hair was long, half way down her back, but spilling around her now.

He eased himself out from under her and carefully rolled her onto her back, then checked her for obvious injuries. No broken bones, no lumps on her head. The bruises were all over her body, but nothing marred her pale face. She was older than he had first thought, a woman, not a girl and he had to force himself to remain professional as he studied her body. He needed to get her help.

Without warning she stirred and opened her eyes. She looked around wildly, terrified. "It's okay." He spoke softly but she jerked violently, fear and horror obvious in her face. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to scare you. I'll get you some help, just let me . . . "

She cowered from him, unable to make it to her feet. Then she was trying to scramble back to the tree. Either she hadn't noticed her nudity, or it wasn't her first concern.

"Listen," he held out his hand, trying to sound reassuring, calming, "I'm Special Agent Fox Mulder. I'm here to help you. Here - " He slipped off his suit coat and held it out to her. She didn't seem to understand the gesture, so he wrapped it gently around her. "I'm Mulder, can you tell me your name?"

If she understood she didn't speak. He was beginning to suspect that her trauma was such that she couldn't. He realized she was shivering and it wasn't because of the cold. He moved closer to her slowly, his hands still out. He sat beside her and gently pulled her to him, letting his arms go around her.

She looked up as though trying to read his face. Whatever she saw did seem to reassure her and she allowed it. He cuddled her to him, finally taking her into his lap. She buried her face in his chest.

"Hey, it's okay. Just relax." He rocked her, murmuring to her until he felt her go limp against him and heard her breathing even out and become regular.

He looked around, but the others hadn't caught up with him yet. Well, they weren't in danger from exposure. It was a nice night; he'd just rather spend it inside.

She grew restless in her sleep. His arms tightened around her giving her security and he made comforting sounds. Her hands clutched his shirt. He had to smile, she didn't know him, but she seemed to trust him. Of course, he thought depreciatingly, he was the only one here.

He cuddled her closer, she felt good in his arms and she seemed to want to be there.

He finally grew drowsy himself. They were sure taking their time. This woman was in no shape to walk, and no way in hell would he leave her. He made himself comfortable and drifted off himself.

When he woke the sun was rising and she was still against him. In the daylight he could see that she was a redhead and had a beautiful complexion. Okay, what the hell had happened to everyone else? He gently placed her on the ground and moved behind a tree to relieve himself. He was just zipping up when he heard her cry out, "Mul!"

He hurried back to her side. "I'm right here. I was just . . . I'm sorry. Don't be scared."

Seeing him looming over her made her shrink back, so he dropped to his knees and held out his hands. "It's okay. It's me, Mulder. Can you tell me your name?"

She didn't try to respond but her hand reached out to touch his chest, almost as though making sure he was real or solid. He smiled then, "Yeah, that's where you slept."

The woman seemed to blush slightly, but that was probably his imagination.

"Do you think you can walk? We need to find the others."

Fear returned to her eyes then.

"It's okay, they're friends of mine. We just need to find them and get you to a hospital to get checked out."

She cringed then and moaned slightly.

"Hey, it's okay. I'm not going to let anyone hurt you. We need to find out who you are and get you back to your family. I'm not going to leave you alone. I'll be there with you."

She was watching his eyes, reading his face. Again she seemed reassured by him. He rose slowly, so as not to frighten her again and held out his hands. After a moment she took them and let him lift her to her feet. She wasn't entirely steady and he tightened his grip. His coat fell open and he saw her body before she clutched it back around her.

She was more aware today, at least of her nudity. But he had stopped, frozen. The bruises were gone. His face must have changed because hers grew worried and she reached out to touch him.

"May I . . . may I look at you. I'm sorry, but I need to see, I need to see your body."

She looked puzzled, but she didn't move away. He carefully and slowly opened his coat. She watched him watching her and kept quiet. The glance had been right, the bruises were gone. Her skin was unmarred and healthy looking.

In the dawn light she was beautiful and in spite of himself, he felt a stirring in his groin. She must have seen something; because she pulled the coat closed again, but didn't pull away. He met her eyes; pretty sure it was him blushing now. "Thank you."

She still didn't attempt to speak. The only word she'd tried to say was his name, but she wasn't afraid of him. For some reason that was giving him an absurd amount of pleasure.

"Come on. I ran from that direction last night." He put his arm around her and she didn't pull away. She was barefoot, so the going was slow, but he could hear traffic. He hadn't seen a road last night; maybe he wasn't going in exactly the same direction.

They came to a two lane road and almost immediately a truck stopped for them.

"You guys look like you need some help. I'm Carl."

"Yes sir." Mulder pulled out his ID. "Could you take us into Lone Elder?"

"Lone Elder? Mr. Mu . . .Mulder," He looked at the ID again, "that's twenty-five miles from here."

"What?"

"Yeah." The man pointed to the west. "That way. It's in the next county. You're in Bull Mountain. I wasn't headed that way."

"Right. Is there a diner or something close by?"

"Sure, there's Hall's Diner just over there. But she's not exactly dressed for it."

"That'll be our first priority." He sounded dangerous then, but smiled a little, and helped her into the truck.

Carl's smile dimmed, slightly afraid of the man suddenly.

At the diner he led her to the ladies room and waited outside for her, then took her to a back booth and seated her. The few workmen in for an early breakfast gave them strange looks but kept quiet. He turned toward the counter to get them some coffee but she grabbed his hand.

"It's okay. I'm not leaving. Let me just get us some coffee, okay?"

She didn't nod, but she let go of his hand. He got the coffee and a couple of sausage biscuits and returned to the booth. "Think you can eat this?"

He unwrapped the food and set it and the coffee before her. She picked up the mug with both hands as though to warm them, but didn't bring the beverage to her lips. It was as though she didn't know what to do with it.

"Do you, would you like something else?" He watched her process that question, but she only looked confused. "How about some hot tea?"

Her eyes lit up at that suggestion and he smiled. They were a beautiful blue.

"I'll get it for you." He squeezed her hand and rose from the booth again. He ordered the tea and took it to the table with him. She smiled at him then, as he dipped the tea bag into the hot water. He caught his breath, she was lovely. Okay, he'd just slept with her in his arms out in the woods all night and he'd seen her nude body a couple of times, but this felt different.

"Sugar, cream?"

She hesitated, then reached for a sugar packet. She tentatively gave it a taste and her eyes widened, as though in surprise, then she smiled again. He actually chuckled.

"I'd sure like to know your name."

She ignored that, savoring her tea.

"I need to call my partner. See about getting you examined."

She looked up at him trustingly and he smiled, for some reason in no hurry to contact anyone.

After she finished the tea, he forced himself to his feet again. "I'm going right over there to use the pay phone. You'll be able to see me."

Her smile slipped but she didn't protest. He took some coins from his pocket and kept an eye on her as he dialed.

"Diana?"

"Fox! Where the hell are you? What happened!"

"I don't know. I wound up in Bull Mountain. Don't ask me how. I was following the lights. I lost consciousness and came to with another returnee. I've got her with me."

"Is she okay?"

"Getting there. How many were returned last night?"

"Fox - "

"Just a number."

"Five, six with your woman."

"Did you see them?"

"Three of them. I can't get near them now."

"What about their injuries?"

"Covered in bruises, but I saw no wounds."

"Okay. Can you pick us up?" He gave her directions to the diner. "And could you bring some clothes for her?"

"She was nude." It wasn't a question.

"She's wearing my coat, but she needs a little more and some shoes."

"We'll be taking her to the hospital, right?" There was silence on the other end. "Fox? She needs to be examined."

"Just get over here. Don't tell anyone."

He heard her sigh, but she didn't disagree. He hung up then and returned to the table.

"My partner is on her way. We'll get you some clothes, then see what happens."


Returnees - 2

Diana walked into the diner less than thirty minutes later. She spotted them and moved immediately toward them, walking purposefully. The red head cringed away from her and without thought he slipped his arm around her.

Diana noted that and her eyes narrowed. She slipped into the other side of the booth.

"Diana Fowley, this is the woman I found last night." He began the introductions.

Diana looked at him for a moment. "You don't know her name?"

He squeezed the young woman's hand, "She hasn't done a lot of talking. What about the people you found?"

"None of them were conscious. Are we taking her to be examined?"

She whimpered.

"Don't worry, Red. I'm not going to let anyone hurt you."

Diana stared at him, was he . . . no, he wasn't involved with her. He'd just found her last night. He was being protective.

"Did you bring her anything to wear?" He looked back at Diana.

"Uh, yeah, but it's too long."

Mulder smiled, "Not a surprise. Why don't you go get the stuff? She can change in the ladies room."

"Fox, what about evidence?"

"Evidence? It's already compromised. We slept in the woods last night and she's been wearing my coat the whole time."

"Did she have the bruises?"

He nodded, "but they're gone now."

"Gone?"

"There's not a bruise on her. I checked this morning."

"Yeah, I bet you did." She muttered, then noted the color in his face, but decided not to pursue it. She stood and turned toward the door. He didn't try to stop her.

Mulder turned to see her watching Diana and obviously not liking what she saw. He squeezed her shoulders. "It's okay."

Diana returned with a paper bag and placed it on the table in front of Mulder.

He picked it up and rose from the booth. "Do you need any help?" This was addressed to the little redhead, so Diana kept her mouth closed.

She glanced at Diana, then took the bag and walked to the ladies room. Diana watched her with distaste. She opened her mouth to say something to Mulder, but his expression and the fact that he hadn't taken his eyes from the door since it had closed behind her, caused her to clamp her lips together. She rose and got herself a cup of coffee, but didn't hurry back to the table.

He was still watching when the door opened and she emerged. The slacks had been rolled up several times as had the cuffs on the shirt. She looked like she was playing dress up in her mother's clothes. She still clutched his jacket. He had to smile. He was on his feet moving toward her before he realized it.

Diana's eyes narrowed, but she followed him. "What now?"

"We take her back to the motel."

"The motel?"

"We can't talk here. Come on." He took her hand and Diana followed them out to the car. Mulder had opened the back door and helped her inside. He bent to pick up the shoe that fell off her foot as she climbed in, then crawled in beside her.

"I need to stay close to her." He said in response to Diana's look.

At the motel, they all entered his room. He seated her on the bed and she kicked off the shoes and scooted to the head of the bed, her back against the headboard, watching them.

Mulder pulled out his wallet and handed Diana his credit card. "Listen, I need to stay with her. She's still not steady. Could you pick up some things for her, closer to her size." He spoke guilelessly, unaware of the insult that she perceived.

Diana glanced over at her, but finally took the card he held out. "Fox, we - "

"Mulder."

They both turned to look at the young woman.

"What did she say?"

Mulder grinned. "My name."

"She calls you Mulder?"

He shrugged, "I prefer it."

Diana rolled her eyes. "Okay, I'll hurry, but we need to talk."

"We will. Go on, okay?"

With one last look at the young woman, Diana let herself out. Mulder saw her shoulders relax. "It's okay. Diana won't hurt you." She wouldn't meet his eyes.

"Okay, I need a quick shower. You won't leave, will you Red?"

She looked up then and he thought she shook her head. "You stay right here." He let himself into the bathroom and took one of the quickest showers on record. He was toweling himself off when he realized that in his rush he hadn't brought any clean clothes in with him.

He secured the towel around his waist after giving his hair a final tousle. He opened the door to see that she hadn't moved. "Uh sorry. I forgot . . . " He wasn't looking at her, so he missed her appraisal of his body. He would have been pleased by her look of approval.

"You probably would enjoy a shower yourself. There's shampoo and stuff in the tub, and a couple of towels."

She rose from the bed.

"You don't . . . do you need any help . . ."

This time she did shake her head, entered the bathroom and closed the door behind her. He dressed quickly, then made a couple of phone calls. He got off the phone when he heard the water shut off.

He'd expected her to put back on the clothes Diana had lent her, but when she emerged, she was wearing a t-shirt he'd left in there. It reached to her knees and he appreciated where it molded to her.

She sat at the table, watching him.

"I, uh, I have a comb . . . "

She held it out and he nodded, "Yeah, that one."

She began combing her wet hair, drying it as she could with the towel.

"We should think about lunch. What are you in the mood for?" She just looked at him. "I always knew women were mysterious to me, but you're taking it to a whole new level." Her lips twitched and he smiled.

The knock on the door caused her to pale and fear was back in her eyes.

"It's okay. It's probably just Diana, back with your things." He moved to the door and looked though the peephole. When he spotted Diana, he nodded to Red and opened the door.

She hurried past him and dumped the bags on the bed. "I had to guess at her sizes, but - " She stopped when she saw the t-shirt now adorning the smaller woman.

"Uh, I guess she didn't feel comfortable in your clothes.

"She seems comfortable enough in yours."

The color rose in Mulder's face, but he didn't respond.

Red moved over to the bed to look over the purchases. She pulled out a pair of white cotton panties and grimaced. Diana rolled her eyes. Mulder looked away so neither woman would see his smile.

"Look, Fox - Mulder," she glanced over before the redhead could correct her again. "What are you thinking? We've got to notify the authorities."

"No. I will not turn her over to the government or a bunch of scientists, I'll find her family. I can look after her."

"You can't be serious. You could lose your job, or - "

"Diana, I am not putting her in that position. She trusts me and I'm not - "

"Fox, she's not your sister! You - " She stopped, but it was too late. She couldn't take back the words. Mulder had frozen in position, unable to speak for a moment.

"Fox, I - "

"We were discussing lunch. Do you want some?" He interrupted his manner distant, barely polite, his voice wooden.

"No, I . . . I'll head over to the hospital, see if I can learn anything."

He nodded, but didn't speak. Diana took a step toward him, but he turned slightly away and she stopped, then took a deep breath and let herself out of the room.

He didn't even realize she had left the bed until he felt her small hand over his heart. He looked down to see her beautiful blue eyes watching him, then she lay her cheek against his chest. He was stunned to realize she was comforting him. His arms encircled her and he let his cheek rest on the top of her head.

They stood that way for a long moment, then she pulled away and took his hand, leading him to the bed. She had him sit after arranging the pillows so that they could sit against the headboard.

She sat beside him and cuddled in, then looked up at him expectantly.

"What?"

She nodded and her hand came up again over his heart.

"You . . . you want to hear about my sister?"

She smiled.

"I . . . I haven't talked about her in a very long time."

She nodded.

Could he do this? It had been ages. He cleared his throat. "She, Samantha, was taken a long time ago, when she was just a little girl. She was eight and I was twelve. I . . . I was babysitting when it happened. I was in charge and, and I lost her."

She cuddled close, listening. "My parents . . . things were never the same after that. We never found her, she was never returned. I saw what happened; I know they took her, though I didn't remember for a long time. I had memory regression when things got bad for me. The memories were coming back and I . . . My father blamed me, no, not exactly, but there was something . . . Things changed forever. He, he resented me after that. And Mom . . . She never said anything, but she kept a . . . a distance from me. It was obvious she would have been more comfortable raising a daughter. I lived with her until I went to school. I'd see my father occasionally but he traveled a lot. He worked for the State Department. I ended up getting my Ph.D. in psychology at Oxford and apparently that made me very attractive to the FBI. Turns out I have a talent for profiling, that's getting into the heads of criminals, see what makes them tick and catch them quicker theoretically.

"I miss her, Red. I still miss her and I want to find her. I owe it to her, I didn't protect her. She's the one person in the world who truly loved me, unconditionally, and I let them take her. She's the reason I was out there in the woods. She's the reason . . . I won't let them have you, Red. The government knows about this, they're working with . . . with them. Someone knows what happened to Samantha and I'm going to find out who that someone is."

He watched her hand come up to his face and take a tear he hadn't been aware of on her finger. She placed it on her own face. He closed his eyes and pulled her against him.

"I don't know if you can understand me, Red, but . . . thank you." She cuddled in as a welcome. They sat there, comfortable in a way he couldn't define. He had done it, he had talked about Samantha and it, it felt kind of good.

He was surprised when his stomach growled.

He chuckled and she smiled. "I guess I forgot to order anything. How about Chinese, maybe some soup? That should be light enough, okay?"

It didn't take long to arrive, but gave her time to try on some of the clothing that Diana had purchased. It was fairly obvious she didn't care for it and Mulder couldn't really blame her. The colors were wrong enough that even he noticed and the styles weren't . . . her. At least they fit better.

He saw her eyes start to droop as they were eating, and by the end of the meal he was afraid she was going to fall into her soup. He scooped her into his arms and carried her to the bed. The move startled her at first, but then she relaxed and stretched out on the bed while he covered her with the extra blanket. That was probably unnecessary, but she pulled it around her and her eyes closed.

He cleaned up what was left of their late lunch and pulled out the file. That's what he was doing when Diana knocked again. He hurried to the door before she could wake Red and let her in.

She glanced over at the bed, then sat down at the table.

"Did you find out anything?" He asked softly.

Okay, he didn't want to talk about anything personal. She was grateful, she needed more time to figure out how to handle that. She nodded, "Ed was there, he has a friend that works at the hospital and she slipped him some information. The guy that was recovered first has begun to talk a little, but he doesn't remember who he is. Apparently none of them do. Their fingerprints have been sent to DC to see if they've been reported missing and when."

"And they're still being held incommunicado?"

"The military are guarding the hospital."

"The military?" His voice rose and he glanced over at the bed.

"They're not in uniform, but it's pretty hard to miss."

"Shit. Now do you agree we can't turn her over?"

"Fox, I . . ."

"I won't do it. I want you to return to DC in the morning. Keep Blevins off my back. I'll drive her back to Washington."

"Drive? Fox, that'll take days."

"Yes, but it gives her the time to recover, maybe remember on her own. I'm not going to let them have her."

Diana looked over at the bed again and saw that the woman was awake and listening to them. Mulder followed her eyes and stood.

"Hey Red, get enough of a nap?"

She glanced at Diana and didn't respond. "Red?"

She looked at him then and gave him a little smile, then got off the bed and went into the bathroom.

"Fox, are you sure you - "

"It's settled Diana. We'll take you to the airport in the morning."

"I'm trying to look after - "

"I've been looking after myself for a very long time Diana." She drew back as though stung, but before he could speak the bathroom door opened and Red joined them. Diana had the definite impression that she'd been listening at the door.

She decided to change tactics. "What about dinner? Do you want to go out somewhere? You've been trapped here all day. I could watch her or - "

"No, we ate late. Maybe we'll order a pizza later or something."

"Where . . . where is she going to sleep tonight?"

Before he could respond, she had crawled back into the bed and pulled the blanket up, staring defiantly at Diana.

Mulder swallowed hard to keep from laughing and nearly choked. When he got it under control, he looked at Diana. "It's okay. She can stay in here."

Diana had no response to that, but refused to look back over at the younger woman. "Do you want to work on our reports? They need to correspond."

"Yeah, that's a good idea. Red, you want to watch TV or something?" He rose and turned on the set for her and found a channel she seemed to want, then returned to the table.

They worked for about an hour, until their reports were close enough to suit him. There was no mention of his new charge. "Okay, you can take both reports back and I'll submit an additional one when I get there. Just keep him off my back for a couple of days."

"It will take more than a couple of days to drive across country."

"We'll have the weekend too. If we leave when you do, I think I can make it by Monday."

"That's pushing it."

"I can do it." His face was set.

"What if I need to reach you? What route are you going to take?"

He shrugged, "What do you think?"

She pulled a map out of her briefcase. "There's not a lot of detail, but the major highways are here." She spread it out on the table. "The best route looks like I-84, to 80, to 76, to 70. It's a straight shot and major roads. You could make the best time."

He nodded, "That sounds good. I'll check in a few times, make sure everything's going okay."

"I'm worried about this Fox."

"I appreciate that Diana. Just don't tell anyone about her. I don't want her taken by anyone again."

Diana nodded and rose, folding the map. He wouldn't need it, the man never forgot anything. "So, you don't want any dinner?"

Mulder looked over at Red. She shook her head slightly. "No, we're good. Thanks anyway."

Diana set her shoulders and moved to the door. She looked back once, but neither of them seemed to notice, so she let herself out. This was bad, and it was going to be worse. Her people were not going to be happy that he had this kind of access. What if she remembered what she'd been through? Damn.


They finished up the Chinese for dinner rather than getting anything else, or leaving the room. They watched some TV, with him explaining some of the new shows to the best of his ability. She really didn't seem to care, watching him more than the TV.

When she yawned, he grinned down at her. "I guess you still need some catch up time. Go get ready for bed."

She looked at him for a moment, then nodded and picked up the nightgown that Diana had purchased for her. She held it up and turned as Mulder chuckled. "Okay, it's not the most attractive . . . " It was full length, white cotton with small pink flowers all over it. He wouldn't have chosen pink for a redhead, but then he wouldn't have picked anything with long sleeves or ruffles either.

She disappeared into the bathroom and he shook his head. Diana obviously wasn't happy about Red and Red was even less than happy with Diana. He did not understand women, he knew that, but keeping them apart would be beneficial for everyone - that much he was sure of.

He looked up from the table when the door opened and his eyes widened. She was back in his t-shirt, not the matronly nightgown. He felt his body begin to respond and cleared his throat as he stood.

"I'll take the bathroom now. You go on to sleep."

She watched him with a small frown on her face, but of course didn't speak. When he emerged in t-shirt and slacks, she looked . . . disappointed. He sat at the table instead of joining her and her eyebrow rose.

"It's, uh, it's okay, you go ahead and get comfortable. I can - "

She pulled back the covers and waited.

"Red, last night was one thing, I mean we were outside, you were in shock, but -"

She shook the covers at him and her eyebrow went a little higher.

"You, you really want me to . . . "

She nodded emphatically once. "You're sure?" Her look was pure demand then and he rose slowly to move toward the bed.

She scooted over to give him more room. Okay, if it made her more comfortable. He could, could hold her until she went to sleep then he'd spend the rest of the night at the table. He never slept more than a couple of hours a night anyway. It would be . . . okay. She glanced pointedly at his slacks, so he removed them, folding them and laying them over a chair.

She turned her back to him and cuddled into his chest as she pulled his arm over her, anchoring him around her.

God she felt good against him. Just how bad an idea was this? Very quickly her even breathing told him she was asleep again. His own eyes were growing heavy. After all he had slept under a tree last night, very different from how comfortable he was now. Maybe he should try to catch a couple of hours; he'd have a long drive starting tomorrow.


Returnees 3

It was full daylight when he woke. He'd slept through the night? He glanced at his watch. Damn, he'd slept eleven hours! How the hell many years had it been since he'd slept eleven hours? She squirmed against him and his morning hard on took on a whole new meaning.

No, he couldn't, he wouldn't take advantage of her. He'd have to be careful on the trip back. He was damn attracted to her, more than any woman that he could remember. But hell, he didn't even know her name. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea.

He slipped out of the bed and hurried to the bathroom. A cold shower took care of his problem physically, but she was right out there and they would be alone on the road for days.

Hell, he was an adult, not some horny teenager. He'd just make sure all of the rest of the motels had two beds in each room. It didn't cross his mind that it hadn't occurred to him to get two rooms.

Once dressed, he returned to the room. She was still asleep, but had moved over to his side of the bed and was hugging his pillow. He sat on the edge of the bed and brushed her hair out of her face. "Hey, Red." He spoke softly, "It's morning. You need to wake up."

She mumbled something, then opened her eyes to see him leaning over her. It brought an immediate smile to her face and his breath caught. She was so beautiful with that red hair spread all over the pillow and those big blue eyes smiling up at him.

"I, uh, I've already had my shower. You go ahead and get ready. We can get a bite of breakfast, then take Diana to the airport."

Her smile dimmed at the mention of the other woman, but she nodded and rose from the bed. She gathered up the least offensive of the clothing Diana had purchased and disappeared into the bathroom. He heard the shower cut on and found himself visualizing the scene he was missing in there and shook his head. Oh this was a great way to go mad.

He packed up his clothes, making room for her things as well. He heard the water cut off just as the knock came on the door. He opened it when he identified Diana. She didn't look very rested.

"I was just packing. Red's getting dressed."

"Fox, please tell me you've changed your mind. This is a very bad idea."

"Maybe, but it's my bad idea. Diana, you mentioned my, my sister yesterday - "

"Fox, I - "

"If you know about her, then you know how important this is to me. I will not let them have her. I won't Diana. Do you hear me?"

She sighed, but nodded.

They both turned to look as the door opened. The young woman had pulled her long red hair back into a ponytail, though the drying tendrils around her face were escaping the elastic band and curling.

She had brought out his kit bag and handed it to him. "What about your things?"

She looked down at his bag and he realized her toiletries were sharing the space with his. It was stupid, but it gave him a warm feeling. Diana's eyes were hard and cold as she looked at this interloper that was causing her so much aggravation.

"You ready for some breakfast, Red?"

She smiled at him and ignored Diana. Mulder lifted the suitcase from the bed and opened the door for the women. Diana carried her suitcase to the car and waited as Mulder opened the trunk.

'Red' opened the front passenger door and seated herself. Diana stopped, stunned at her audacity. Mulder didn't say anything, slipping into the car himself rather than make a comment. It would be a bad thing to laugh, even though that was his inclination.

Diana let herself into the back seat with a snort and Mulder made a concerted effort not to look toward either woman.

He pulled into a diner on the way to the airport and the three of them entered and took a booth in the back. He sat beside Red, as though shielding her with his body. Diana noted the protective gesture and felt even more dismay.

He ordered for her and she nodded her approval. Diana rolled her eyes, but couldn't really call her on it. The others in the hospital hadn't spoken either. It was as though they'd forgotten how. She had said his name; that was a start. The problem was, what would she say when she could speak?

Following breakfast Mulder drove Diana on to the airport. Red had resumed her seat in front and Diana didn't attempt to beat her to it. She wasn't really sure she wanted to sit next to Fox right now anyway.

As he pulled up to the door of the terminal, she touched his shoulder. "Be careful Fox. You're taking I84 to 80, right? Please call me tonight and let me know . . . "

"Don't worry about us, Diana. Just keep Blevins busy. I'll check in tonight."

Mulder didn't accompany Diana inside, which hurt her in a way she couldn't quite describe. She understood that he didn't want to leave his charge alone, but there had been no opportunity to say anything in private.

Once she disappeared into the terminal, he pulled away and turned toward the exit.

"Not 84."

"What?" He looked over at her startled.

"Not 84. Another way."

"Another way? Why?" He looked over at her. She was perfectly serious. Was it just because Diana had suggested it? No, this woman wasn't petty. Yes, she had asserted her position with him. Hell, he had saved her life and she felt safe with him. He could only hope it was justified. But petty? No, it didn't feel like that. She was obviously serious about this route change.

"Okay, south?"

She nodded, smiling.

"The I-5 it is. We'll head toward Las Vegas for a while, then turn east."

She relaxed back against the seat. For some reason he felt more comfortable about this arrangement himself. He glanced over at her to find her watching him. "What?"

She just smiled.

"Come on, you can talk now, can't you? You just didn't want to in front of Diana."

Her smile dimmed at the sound of the other woman's name. "Don't . . . trust."

"Hey, I know you don't like her. I'm pretty sure she's not very fond of you either, but she is my partner. We've worked together for nearly six months. It's important to trust your partner."

She sniffed.

"I need to know why you don't trust her."

Red looked away for a moment, obviously thinking about the question. Finally she looked back at him and shook her head. "I don't know."

"Okay, but if you decide, will you tell me?"

She studied him for a moment, then nodded.

He drove steadily, stopping briefly for lunch, but getting back on the road as soon as possible. They were quiet, but comfortable with each other.

Even though he'd had the best night's sleep in memory, he was ready to stop for the day a little after five. He found them a motel and checked in, having her wait in the car, keeping her exposure down.

He carried their things inside. She noted the two double beds, but made no comment. He found them a cafeteria near the motel and they had a healthier dinner.

When they returned to the room, she turned on the TV. The news was on and the lead item caught his attention. He moved over and turned the sound up. It was a report about a problem on I-84, blocking the highway for hours.

"It's a good thing we didn't go that way."

She put her hand on his arm. "That's where we would have been."

"Yeah, I bet the back up - "

"That's where we would have been. They knew we were coming."

He just stared at her for a minute. "What are you saying?"

"It was a . . . a trap, for us."

"How could it be? No one knew we were going that way, no one even knows that I have you."

She just looked at him, not speaking.

"Diana? You think Diana would - "

"Don't tell her where we are."

"Red, you - "

"Just don't tell her. Please."

After a long moment, he nodded. "But I need to call her."

"Be careful."

He looked at the phone in the room, but decided not to use it. "I'll use the pay phone next to the drink machine. Want to come?"

"No. I'll get ready for bed." She saw his eyes dilate slightly but managed not to smile. It was a nice compliment though.

He checked his pockets for change, then let himself out.

He called Diana's home phone and she answered on the first ring. "Fox?"

"Yeah, it's me."

"Where are you? I was, was concerned."

"Really? It's not that late. We didn't have any problems."

There was a slight pause before she answered. "Uh, great. I heard on the news about the tie up on I-84 and I - "

"Tie up? Where?"

There was an even longer pause then. "It was on the news. The highway was closed, I thought maybe . . . "

"It must have been behind us. We didn't see anything. I did have a heavy foot."

"Oh. Well good. The sooner you get back to DC the better. Blevins is okay for now. He thinks you're tying up loose ends. If you're back in the office by Monday I don't think he'll even notice anything."

"Good. I don't want to be called in on the carpet first thing."

"Is everything okay? Is she able to talk yet?"

"No, my name. That's about it."

"Well, I guess that's not surprising. So she hasn't remembered her name?"

"Not yet, but we've got a few days. I'm hoping tomorrow or the next day . . . "

"Yes."

"Well, I need to get off. We want to get an early start in the morning."

"Good idea."

"I probably won't call tomorrow, unless something happens. I'll check in on Friday."

"You're sure everything . . . "

"Yes. She slept most of the time. Too bad we don't know if she can drive. I could've used the relief."

"Be careful Fox. I don't mind if you call tomorrow."

"We'll see. Goodnight."

"Nite, Fox." She didn't want to hang up. It felt like he was already disconnected from her. It hurt and it scared her in a way she just couldn't define.

He broke the connection. According to his watch, he hadn't been on the phone long enough for a trace even if she had the equipment at her apartment. At that thought, he glanced at the door to their room. Red had put that train of thought into his head. Was it a good thing? He'd come closer to trusting Diana than anyone else he'd met since becoming an adult. Was that because they occasionally slept together? There was no commitment, just bodies in need. He felt guilty about that, but it seemed to be all she needed too.

Whatever, he was going to be on his guard now and that wasn't a bad thing.

He returned to the room to find her in his t-shirt, watching TV from the bed closest to the bathroom.

"I need to stretch a little after all that driving. Do you mine if I go for a short run?"

"Be careful Mulder."

Simple words, but they touched him. She was worried about him, she seemed to care.

He nodded. "Don't open the door for anyone. I have a key. And don't use the phone."

She smiled then, "Who would I call?"

Right, he was all she had in the world right now. For some reason that felt good. He slipped into the bathroom to change to his running clothes, then returned to the larger room to stretch. He was aware she was watching him more than the TV.

"I won't be long." Then to his surprise, he leaned over and kissed her brow. Her eyes widened and he moved back quickly. "Sorry, I . . . "

"Hurry back." Was all she said.

He left, chastising himself for such a boneheaded move.

He ran a couple of miles, but the pull of her was strong, so he headed back. She was still awake and smiled that beautiful smile when he let himself in the room. "I'm gonna shower. What's on?"

"I'm watching the news, but I still don't recognize anything." She looked a little forlorn.

"Hey, don't push yourself. It'll come back."

She sighed, but nodded.

After his shower, he returned wearing his t-shirt and boxers, but got into the other bed. Her lips parted in surprised and he looked away, then back at her. "I think this is better, Red."

"You do?"

He looked away again and slipped under the covers. "We should get some sleep." He turned off the light and rolled over, not facing her. She made no further protests, but he could actually feel her displeasure.

It took awhile for him, but she drifted off fairly quickly. Eventually her even breathing relaxed him and he too fell asleep.

The next thing he knew, he felt her cool hand against his brow. "Mulder wake up. It's okay."

The dream. Shit. He brushed his damp hair back from his brow. It must have been a bad one. He forced himself to sit up. God, he was soaked. He was surprised no one was pounding on the door.

"I'll get you a towel."

"That's okay." He stripped off the t-shirt and wiped his face.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

He shook his head. "I'm sorry I woke you."

Her hand touched his cheek. He closed his eyes and leaned into it for a moment then straightened up. "I'll, uh, I'll . . . maybe I'll watch a little TV. I'll keep it low."

"You need sleep, Mulder."

He shook his head again. "I never sleep again after . . . "

"This is . . . common?"

He looked away. "I'll try not to keep you awake."

"Lie back." She pushed him back toward his pillow, "and scoot over."

He blinked at her, but did as she ordered. She stretched out beside him and cuddled into his chest. "Close your eyes Mulder."

He looked at her incredulously for an instant, then thought, what the heck. He pulled her close and let his eyes shut. He'd humor her and then when she was asleep, he'd move over to the chair and read or something until morning.

Sounds outside woke him and his eyes opened. What time . . . it was light outside? Red squirmed against him and his body reacted immediately. He'd slept? He'd actually fallen back to sleep after the dream? He had never, even as a child . . . Her warm breath stirred his chest hair; right, he had taken off his tshirt. Then he realized his hand was inside of the t-shirt she wore, caressing her back, feeling the silkiness of her skin.

Her leg moved, brushing his cock and he stifled a groan. He moved carefully away from her and rose from the bed. She didn't wake, but moved to the warm spot he had left. He looked down at her, then moved on to the bathroom and took a shower, using the opportunity, and privacy, to relieve himself. Once in control, he dressed and returned to her side.

"Hey, Red, it's time to wake up Sleepyhead."

She stretched and the t-shirt pulled tight across her breasts. All the good that his time in the shower had done was gone. She opened her eyes to see the lust plainly visible in face and reached for him.

He backed away quickly. "We need to get moving. Go ahead and get dressed."

"Mulder, how did you sleep?"

He looked at her then, deeply into her eyes, "Very well, thank you." The words were simple, but she heard the depth of it. She nodded and rose from the bed.

They ate a quick breakfast and headed east. At lunchtime they pulled into a diner and stopped to stretch and eat. The TV was on and several patrons were watching what looked like a massive back up on a highway.

Mulder led her to a booth and when the waitress approached, asked her what was going on. "Oh, it's bizarre. Yesterday there was this huge tie up on the I-84 up north. Well today, there's another one. Several hundred miles east and it's on the I-80 as well now. They're talking about it on all the channels. It's become a real joke. Coffee?"

They placed an order, but exchanged glances when they were alone. "Red, I want to exchange cars."

She nodded. "How?"

"Let me think about it. Don't worry. It could still be a coincidence."

"Do you think it is?" She watched his eyes.

"I don't see any reason not to take precautions." He squeezed her hand. "Don't worry. I'll keep you safe."

"I never doubted that."

His lips parted in surprise, but before he could speak again, the waitress returned with their drinks.

When they were back in the car, he turned to her. "Let's find an airport. We can 'exchange' rental cars there."

She nodded and they drove off. They found the airport in Stockton, Kansas. Mulder drove around and saw the fleet of rental cars available. "Okay, I want you to take the bags and wait for me. After I fill up the car I'm going to switch. Then I'll pick you up."

"They won't just exchange cars without asking for - "

He grinned at her, "No, they won't. Don't worry about it. Come on."

When he picked her up about twenty minutes later, he was driving a navy sedan, dusty on the outside, but with a full tank of gas.

"Like it?" He grinned.

"Yeah. I never really liked white cars anyway. Let's go." She grinned. "Are you going to tell me how you did this?"

"No way, if I did I'd have to kill you."

She gave him the eyebrow, but he chuckled for a moment, then sobered. "I do need to make a phone call."

She looked up quickly, "Diana?"

"No. I don't know what's going on there. But because of what is happening, we need some more cash. I've got some friends that can help us out. I trust these guys."

After a moment she nodded.

At the next filling station, he went in and bought a map. She waited in the car while he used the pay phone. It didn't take long and she didn't ask any questions. He was smiling when he returned and that was enough for her.

When they reached Topeka he found the Western Union office and picked up their cash as well as a note. When he got back in the car, he split the money with her, giving her $300 and keeping $200 for himself.

"What are you doing?"

"If we should get separated, or if anything . . . I want you to hold on to this and keep this address. These are the guys that sent the money. Go to them and stay there. They'll look after you, find out who you are. In fact they're already working on it."

"They are?"

"I called them earlier. They're checking missing people with your description. It would help if they had your fingerprints but we'll do that when we get there."

"What if they don't - "

"You are not to worry about this. I shouldn't have said anything before . . . how about we stop and get you a few more clothes. Something that you pick out. I mean, we're rich now, right?"

That brought a smile back to her face. "Really?"

He laughed, "Really. I'd like to see what you'd pick out."

"I don't know my taste." She sounded a little nervous then.

"Sure you do. Come on." He put the car in gear and found the nearest shopping center.

It was an uneventful day and they put a lot of miles behind them. They kept the radio on, checking on the events up north when they could.


He looked up from the TV and his mouth fell open when she came out of the bathroom. He hadn't seen her purchase that.

It was dark blue, sheer and short with those little straps, what did they call them, spaghetti straps, yeah. The panties matched and were cut high enough to make her legs look . . .

Oh god, he couldn't . . . she looked so damn good. She moved toward him, their eyes locked and her arms went around him.

"Red, you - "

Her lips cut him off. When the hell had he bent over and tasted of her? Allowed his tongue to explore her, duel with her tongue? Her hand was inside his t-shirt and brushed against his nipple. The reaction was immediate. She smiled at him then and her free hand slipped under his waistband.

Returnees 4

He looked up from the TV and his mouth fell open when she came out of the bathroom. He hadn't seen her purchase that. Oh god, he couldn't . . . she looked so damn good. She moved toward him, their eyes locked and her arms went around him.

"Red, you - "

Her lips cut him off. When the hell had he bent over and tasted of her? Allowed his tongue to explore her, duel with her tongue? Her hand was inside his t-shirt and brushed against his nipple. The reaction was immediate. She smiled at him then and her free hand slipped under his waistband.

He grabbed her hand, pulling away. "No."

"Mulder, I - "

"No."

"I want - "

"No."

She looked at him then, trying to read his eyes.

He looked away, "We . . . you don't know who you are, we don't know who you are. You could be married, have a, a family. I don't want you to, to regret the time that we . . . I'm not going to take advantage of . . . " He shook his head.

"It's not taking advantage - "

"Red, no. Don't make this any harder."

Her eyebrow rose and color suffused in his face. "You know what I mean. When you get home and find out who you are, I don't want you to have memories that would make you uncomfortable. This trip is to keep you safe, not to make things worse for you when you . . . " He shrugged.

"You don't want me?"

"Red, you know that's not it. I doing my best to be a gentleman here and it's the last thing I want to do. I can't . . . Go on to bed. We still have a long way to go tomorrow."

He turned her toward the bed closest to the bathroom.

"We should at least share the bed."

"I don't think - "

"We both sleep better when we're holding each other."

He couldn't exactly refute that, he'd slept through the night, peacefully, since finding her Monday night. That was a world's record for him, but . . . "Go change."

She glanced down at her outfit, then glanced up at him blushing. "I'm sorry."

"No. Don't be sorry. For you to want . . . " He closed his eyes, "just go change. Please."

She nodded and retreated to the bathroom. She emerged wearing his gray t-shirt and still not quite able to face him.

"Red, please don't be uncomfortable."

"I threw myself - "

"And I wanted to catch you."

"Maybe I'm a prostitute or - "

"Red. Stop. You could never be . . . You are a beautiful, desirable woman and any man that sees you is going to want you. You have to know that, just look in the mirror, but I'm not going to let your . . . appreciation - "

"It's not appreciation Mulder."

He nodded, but steeled himself against the pull of her. She lay down and pulled the sheet up over her. After a moment he climbed in on the other side. It felt awkward, stiff.

"Mulder?"

"Shh, come here." He turned her so that he could spoon around her and held her until he felt her finally relax. He was doing the right thing. This woman wasn't like Diana. She couldn't be a casual sex partner, at least not for him. He didn't even know her name and he felt like, like she was essential to him.

Stupid! Just because she trusted him and, and he had actually been able to discuss Samantha with her . . . she had no one else, at least not yet. He needed to keep that in mind.

It was comfortable here, with her in his arms. They'd only be on the road a couple more nights. He should rest now, while she was with him. He closed his eyes and pulled her closer.


She woke to hear him in the shower, but remembered the feel of his arms around her. She was on his side of the bed now. He did want her; he was keeping his distance for a reason. She understood that and tried to be grateful. Would it be uncomfortable today? No, she wouldn't let it. He was important to her, not just as a savior, as a friend . . . and a man.

She smiled when the door opened and he emerged with the steam. "Morning."

He relaxed visibly at her smile. "Good morning. I left you a little hot water."

"Thanks." She rose and slipped past him into the bath, letting her hand caress his shoulder lightly on the way in. "I won't be long."

He managed to smile then. "Take your time."

He wanted to put miles behind them and get to DC no later than tomorrow afternoon, so they ate breakfast in the car. She could tell that he was still wary of how to be around her this morning, so she took his coffee from his hand and put it in the holder, then pried a finger from the steering wheel where he gripped it.

He glanced over at her, then took hold of her hand.

"We okay?" She asked.

"Yeah."

"Talk to me. Tell me about you."

"Me?"

"Well, we can't exactly talk about me."

"What do you want to know about me?"

"Everything. Your work, where you went to school, who you're seeing . . . your relationship with Diana."

"That won't take long. I'm not seeing anyone. Diana and I work together. Sometimes we've . . . damn, it sounds so clinical, but we've been convenient for each other. In our work there's not always a lot of time for the social." He managed a sad smile, "Which explains my ineptitude around you."

"I don't find you at all inept. You . . . I understand what you did last night. I think a part of me even appreciates it, a little maybe. So, you and Diana . . . "

"We're friends, partners. We're working on a new project right now." He grinned sheepishly, "We call it the X-Files. They're old cases, some unsolved, mostly unexplained. It's occult stuff, paranormal . . . weird. I got into it looking for Samantha. They buried the UFO reports down there too. They call me 'Spooky' Mulder because, well because I guess I am. Diana doesn't seem to care and she believes like I do, maybe a little. At least she listens to my ideas and even comes up with some of her own occasionally."

"But you didn't tell her about Samantha." It wasn't a question.

"I . . . I don't trust people very much. I didn't as a kid, and I sure as hell don't as an adult. Samantha is precious to me. I don't share her."

"You did with me."

He managed a small smile, "yeah, I did."

"Thank you."

"When we were little, we'd go up to Rhode Island to our lake house. She was a pain, you know, little sister and all that, but she was cool sometimes too. Not that I ever told her that. I was different from the other kids, even back then, into science fiction and I have this memory that won't turn off. She was used to it, where the other kids . . . I should have looked after her better."

"Mulder, you were twelve. What more could you have done, realistically?"

He blinked at that. "I should have - "

"You believe she was taken by the same thing that took me."

He nodded.

"The thing that moved you 25 miles the other night without you knowing it."

He glanced over at her.

"Maybe you need to rethink what you could have done as a twelve year old against something like that." She squeezed his hand. "Keep talking."

So he did, talking about his family before Samantha was taken, and about his time in school. He'd gone to school in England and had a Ph.D. in psychology which gave her a great deal of insight into the man, though she didn't interrupt, just letting him talk. It felt to her as though he hadn't had anyone to talk to in a very long time.

They ate a quick lunch, eating up the miles today. It was late afternoon when they finally stopped for a little while. He pulled into a service station and filled the car. She went on inside and used the ladies room, then picked up a drink and some snacks for both of them.

Mulder joined her and paid, making sure that she was obscured from the camera by his body. She had become used to this, it was just another way that he protected her and, while she thought it unnecessary, she was moved that he cared that much.

He was returning his wallet to his pocket when they both heard the woman near the rest rooms. "Help me! He's having a heart attack!"

She didn't even look over at him before moving toward the sound. He was only a half step behind her. She knelt beside the stricken man, checking his pulse. "Call 911." She spoke to Mulder though she didn't turn. She tilted the man's head back and blew twice into his mouth. Her hand moved down his chest then and began CPR.

"They're on their way. What can I do?"

"Spell me. Every five compressions, give him air."

He nodded and pinched the man's nose. They worked together until the paramedic moved them aside. Mulder took her arm to help her to her feet, then they stepped out of the way. They watched as the medics shocked him, twice then she took a deep breath as they got a pulse.

The clerk, an older man touched her shoulder. "That's Fred Graham. He's a friend of mine. You kept him alive until they could get here. Thank you."

She glanced over at Mulder. "You're . . . you're welcome."

"Let's get out of here." Mulder whispered to her. She nodded and they moved back, away from the activity. As soon as possible, they slipped out the door and walked calmly to their car. With all of the traffic that had suddenly converged on the mini-mart, no one tried to stop them.

They were several miles down the road before he spoke. "How did you know what to do?"

She shook her head.

"But you were . . . you knew what you were doing. Can't you remember anything?"

"No. I didn't think, I just acted."

Mulder nodded. He reached over and took her hand again. Her trembling decreased at his touch. They were quiet then, just being together. He wanted to ask what she was thinking now, but it could wait.

He began looking for a hotel earlier than he had originally thought. She was obviously still shaken by what had happened.

Finally he decided to try to get her to talk again, "What about dinner? What are you in the mood for?"

She shook her head. "I'm not hungry, whatever you want."

"Red, you did nothing wrong. You saved a guy's life, you should be proud of yourself."

"That's not . . . " she shrugged again. "I'm just not hungry."

"Okay, I'll get us a room. If you change your mind, we can eat later."

She just turned to look back out the window. He hadn't seen her like this and wished he knew how to help her. He'd never been without his memories, no matter how much he might wish it. This was new territory for him.

She waited in the car as usual while he got their room. He observed her as he approached the car. She seemed a million miles away and he felt a stab of loneliness, then an urge to bring her back to him.

He tapped on the window then opened the door. "You okay?"

"I'm fine."

"Why do I doubt that?"

"Really, let's just go on up."

He took her hand, caressing the fingers lightly before squeezing them and leading her to the room.

"Mulder, I think I'd like a shower."

"Sure, go ahead. I need to make some calls."

She nodded and watched him for a moment. His brow furrowed, what? But before he could ask, she turned away and shut the door to the bathroom behind her.

"Lone Gunmen."

"It's me. What you got for me?"

"Hold on, let me switch phones."

Mulder smiled grimly at that, but didn't protest.

"Okay Big Guy, we've got six possibilities." The little one, Frohike spoke over the speaker phone.

"That's his estimate," the blond, Langly piped up. "I'd say more like 300."

Mulder shook his head, "My guess is that Frohike's looked at more women than the rest of us put together. I'll go with his estimate. You got names for me?"

"This would go a lot faster if we had some fingerprints."

"Tomorrow. Give me the names, okay?"

"Sharon Brackett, Jennifer Slader, Debbie Brown, Dana Scully, Patricia Kaysom, and Jennifer Jackson."

"Okay. You got pictures, locations?"

"Yeah. When should we expect you?"

"Depends on traffic tomorrow. Before dark." He heard the water cut off. "Gotta go. Thanks guys."

"No biggy, we're better than those fascists at your company anyway."

"I'll remember that." He hung up and looked toward the door, anxious to see her again already.

When the door did open, his lips parted in surprise. She was wearing only a towel.

She moved to him, stopping just within his reach. "I don't know who I was, but I'm not sure how important that is. What I do know is that I want to make love with you. Whatever we find out tomorrow, or the next day, doesn't matter right now. I want to be with you. I need to be with you. Mulder, people die every day. That man could have died right there in front of us, with all kinds of regrets on his mind. The only regret I could have is losing this time with you." Her eyes were glistening with tears.

He wasn't sure when his arms encircled her, but she was against him, held tightly to him. He'd managed to keep his distance last night, using logic, common sense - neither seemed to matter tonight.

She wanted him and it was no secret how much he wanted her.

"Mulder, please."

Without another word he lifted her into his arms and carried her the few steps to the bed. The towel slid to the floor and he saw her body. He couldn't look away.

"Mulder."

"Just a second." He ducked into the bathroom and returned instantly, then began removing his own clothes. Her breathing grew shallow at the sight of his chest, and stopped altogether when he removed his boxers, her eyes wide.

"Red?"

Then she reached for him. He joined her, burying his face in her breasts, breathing in the scent he had come to love over the past few days. He wanted to be here forever, give up his job and run away with her. He didn't care who she was, hell, he didn't care who he was now.

"Make me yours." She whispered into his ear and he met her eyes, nodding. He was already hers.

He entered her slowly, carefully, giving her time to adjust. Her eyes were locked on his, penetrating much deeper than even he was capable physically.

Her eyes never left his until his body pushed her over the edge. Watching her come in his arms was enough to push him over as well and he followed her willingly, eagerly.

He held her as she came back to herself and her breathing tried to return to normal. When she was no longer shuddering, he rose on wobbling legs. She whimpered, but he soothed her. "Be right back, Red."

He stumbled to the bathroom, flushed the condom and washed up a little, then took a warm cloth back out to her and gently cleaned her. She pulled him back down next to her and he collapsed pulling her to him.


He stirred, stretching slightly, moving abused muscles. A smile came to him before even opening his eyes. Three times. They'd made love three times during the night. He had enough ego to be damned pleased, even though he knew it was her hands on his body that had made that last time possible.

He reached for her, opening his eyes slowly. Maybe one more . . . she wasn't in the bed. He usually woke first, but with last night's exercise . . . he glanced toward the bathroom, but the door was open and the light was off.

He was up then, "Red?" It wasn't like there was anyplace to hide in the room, she . . . she wasn't there. He felt his heart rate rise. She wouldn't leave, not on her own. He'd heard nothing, dead to the world after . . . Was anything missing? She hadn't been taken; there had been no bright light. He wouldn't have slept through - the door opening caused him to turn.

She walked in balancing coffee and a small plate of pastry. The look on his face caused her smile to evaporate and she searched for any flat surface to put down the food.

"Mul - " Then he had her crushed against him.

After a long moment, she looked up at him and he loosened his hold. "Mulder, what?"

"You were gone." Simple words, but the flat tone said it all. He'd been terrified.

"Mulder I'm sorry. I, I wanted to get you some coffee. I didn't think - "

He shook his head, lowering himself heavily to the foot of the bed. Then he remembered he was nude. He glanced around, but she picked up his boxers and handed them to him.

"Can you forgive me?"

"You didn't do anything wrong. I, I just . . . " He shook his head, and slipped them on.

She sat beside him, "Are you okay?"

"Sure. I was just caught off guard with you not being here. It was stupid."

"It wasn't stupid. You care about me." He glanced up quickly. "I knew you did, I mean after last night, but - "

He rose from the bed, "I need a shower. We should get on the road."

"Mulder - "

"I'm okay." He turned from her and closed the bathroom door behind him.

She hadn't thought, she truly hadn't realized what leaving without telling him would do. She should have. She knew how he felt about his sister, she was the only one who knew, but she hadn't processed it. She needed to make this up to him.

She heard the water cut on and rose to her feet. She shed her clothes and quietly entered the bathroom. Then she heard it, he was crying. Her heart melted and she moved quickly to the shower.

She stepped in and he jerked upright and away from her. "It's okay." She wrapped her arms around him.

"It's not okay. You're not mine and now I . . . " He buried his face in her hair.

"I am yours. We don't know what we're going to find, but I am yours. I'll always be yours."

"But you aren't. Red, you aren't." His next words were cut off by her lips on his.

"We'll find out together, Mulder.


Returnees 5

He held her hand tightly as they waited for someone to open the door. He knew they were on camera and he could hear the locks being disengaged. When the door finally opened, she was greeted by the sight of a small man with two day's growth of beard and thinning hair. He swept his arm to welcome them in and she saw he was wearing gloves with the fingers cut off.

Mulder's arm went around her and he escorted her inside.

"Welcome to my home lovely lady." The strange little man took her hand and kissed it.

Mulder pulled her closer to him. "Back off Frohike."

The older man grinned at him as the two other men joined them.

"Red, this is John Byers, Ringo Langly and that is Melvin Frohike."

"Well guys, did I pick it or did I pick it?" Langly looked over at his friends.

Byers nodded and Langly snorted.

"What?" Mulder asked.

"You decide." Frohike moved toward the desk. He shuffled through some papers quickly and picked up a picture, then handed it to Mulder. "That's her, isn't it?"

The others didn't seem to notice, but she could tell he had gone slightly pale. She moved closer, and held out her hand. The gesture seemed to surprise him, but he managed a rueful grin. He handed her the photograph.

It was her. Her hair was shorter, but it was her.

"Her name is Dana Scully." Frohike offered.

"Dana." He tried out the sound of it.

She sank into the nearest chair and his hand came out to catch her. "I'm . . . I'm fine."

He squatted beside her. "Really?"

She took a deep breath, then looked over at Frohike. "Who am I?"

He smiled at her, kindly it seemed, and she relaxed a notch. "You're a doctor, a good one apparently."

She blinked at that and glanced over at Mulder. He smiled and nodded. She relaxed a little more.

"What about the personal?" Mulder asked this, trying to sound casual.

Langly chuckled, until Mulder's look stopped him.

"You're single, your parents live in Georgetown. Your father is Navy, a Captain, and your mother was a stay at home mom. You have . . . " Byers let his voice trail off when he realized they weren't listening. In fact, he couldn't be sure they'd heard anything after the word 'single'. He met Frohike's eyes and nodded.

She wasn't sure whether she'd taken his hand or he'd taken hers, but they were holding onto each other. There was no husband, no family to feel guilty in front of. There was no other man to mar their relationship. She felt positively light headed.

"Red?"

"Yes," she drew herself back to the present. "What else?"

Byers glanced over at Mulder, then continued. "You have two brothers, we think, and a sister named Melissa. That's about all we know. We weren't sure which one to check."

"My, my parents live here?"

Frohike nodded, "You worked at Georgetown."

"I'm a doctor. What kind?"

Byers shrugged, "we can find out in a few minutes."

She nodded and leaned into Mulder.

"Hey guys, you have brandy, don't you?" He was watching her and she seemed to be sinking slightly now.

"Uh, sure. Just a second." Byers was on his feet, as Mulder lifted her and carried her to the sofa. Byers returned immediately with a glass. "Is she okay?"

"Yeah. Just give her a minute. This is a lot to absorb."

She took the glass he held out, but it trembled in her hands, so his hands closed around hers and brought the glass to her lips. She sipped from it, then leaned into him.

"We'll, uh, we'll give you a few minutes. There's some things we can look up."

Mulder nodded, his attention on her fully now. "Red?"

"I'm not married." She looked up into his eyes.

His smile was dazzling. "No, you aren't, yet."

She blushed then. "I'm not, I mean - "

"I'll take you to your parent's home tomorrow. I can only imagine how seeing you is going to affect them."

"What about tonight?"

His face fell slightly. "You should stay here tonight. I need to contact Diana, let her know I'm in town. My place might be watched."

Her eyes grew troubled, "You'll be in danger?"

"No. I mean, I'm not supposed to be in the office until Monday. We have tomorrow."

"Couldn't you stay here too and contact her tomorrow?"

"Stay here?"

She nodded.

"Think I can stay near you and not . . . "

"You did the other nights."

"That was before I knew what I was missing." But her expression of fear was getting to him. "I . . . I suppose I could call her and let her think we're still on the road."

"Please."

He nodded, "Okay. Let's see what the guys have dug up. Are you feeling better?"

"Yes, especially if you stay here." She watched his eyes dilate and relaxed even more.

They joined the others and Frohike immediately rose to give her his chair. He was beginning to grow on her; he really was kind of sweet.

"Guys, you have a phone I can use? Untraceable."

Langly shot his eyes at him. "You're kidding right? You couldn't be in a safer place. Come on." Mulder grinned then squeezed her hand and followed the pony-tailed blond out of the room. Langly handed him a phone and made a few adjustments, then left him alone.

He dialed the familiar number. "Hello?"

"Diana, it's me."

"Fox! Why didn't you call?"

"There was another tie up on the highway, we spent some time hiding."

"So where are you?"

"Tennessee. We should be in DC tomorrow. Have you been able to find out who she is?"

"No, but after we have fingerprints we can search."

"Yeah, I guess that's what it'll take."

He sounded disappointed, but she couldn't give him any information, not yet. "What time should you be here?"

"Afternoon. I'm not sure."

"Okay. Do you want me to meet you at your place?"

"Yeah, that's probably a good idea."

"Is she talking yet?"

"A little. She doesn't remember who she is. I can tell that's beginning to frighten her."

"It'll probably just be a matter of time. If we find her family, husband, kids, I'm sure seeing them will help."

He closed his eyes; that was what he'd been worried about. She was single, there was no husband. "Look Diana, I'm tired. This has been a long trip. I'll talk to you tomorrow."

"Okay. Be careful Fox." But he'd already hung up. Well, he'd said he was tired. At least she hadn't remembered anything. How had he evaded the teams? Of course he shouldn't be in Tennessee on the route they had planned. There were only so many routes into DC from the south. She'd pass along the information. If they weren't picked up, it wouldn't be her fault. She just needed to remain cool so that he wouldn't see her role in this.


Mulder hurried back to the main room. Red, Dana, was sitting in front of a computer reading the screen. She didn't seem to notice that he'd returned.

Then she turned to smile at him and he relaxed. She was aware of him like he was her, on a cellular level or something.

"So are you a pediatrician or something? Could you support me in my old age?"

She blushed and he moved closer. "I'm a . . . a pathologist."

"A path . . . well, no pesky house calls I guess."

"I did an extensive residency in cardiology too, which might explain some things."

"Yeah." He nodded, "but you chose pathology. Someday I'd like the rest of that story."

"Someday I'd like to tell you." She said softly.

The three men moved away, finding other parts of the room suddenly fascinating. Mulder chuckled. "It's okay guys. We'll try to control ourselves. I'm thinking I'll take her to her parent's tomorrow morning. Can we both bunk here tonight?"

"Uh, sure." Byers responded.

"Mulder, I don't think we should just show up. I don't want to shock them."

"Good idea. We need to come up with a cover story on where you've been as well. I want publicity, so the military won't be comfortable 'bothering' you."

"Do you think they'll try to take me, for testing?"

"You're a physician. We need to preempt them, make a big deal of how healthy you are. Offer your medical records. These people don't like working in the light. The more famous you are, the more they'll want to distance themselves. It doesn't hurt that your family's military."

She sighed. "I don't want to mess up."

"You won't. And as for publicity, we're here in the heart of 'The Magic Bullet' - a newsletter written by these guys. We can use their expertise on publicity."

She looked at the other men, slightly surprised. "Will you help us on that too?"

Byers smiled and Frohike looked surprised she had even asked. "Of course we will Lovely Lady. Damsels in distress are my specialty."

"That's 'cause he usually puts them in distress." Langly offered, then huffed as Frohike backhanded a fist into his chest.


He pulled the car to the curb in front of her parent's house. He had called ahead, but Red hadn't talked to her mother. The woman had no doubt been on the phone ever since, gathering her family.

Mulder looked over at the pale woman sitting beside him, her hands clasped together in her lap. "It'll be okay."

She tried to smile and he took her hands. They were icy cold. He took them in his and rubbed them, to stimulate circulation. She did manage a small smile and nodded.

He exited the car and came around to open her door, then took her hand to help her from the car. She seemed to lean into him and his arm went around her with a familiarity that startled him a little.

Before they could knock, the door opened and a dark haired woman hurried out toward them. She threw her arms around Red, hugging her tightly. "Oh Dana, my baby." Those were the only words he could make out, though she continued speaking into Red's ear. She drew them inside, finally turning to him.

"Mr. Mulder?"

"Yes." He smiled at her, as she dashed the tears of joy from her eyes.

Before he could say anything else, she threw her arms around him as well, hugging him tightly. That sight finally brought a smile to Red's face and he grinned at her.

Then she turned back to her daughter. "Come in, come in. Would you like some hot tea?"

That brought a lightening to Dana's eyes. "I like hot tea?"

Maggie looked slightly confused then, "Yes, you love it." She turned to Mulder, "I didn't realize when you . . . Dana, do you recognize me?"

Dana's face fell then, and she shook her head. "I'm sorry."

"Oh my lord, don't be sorry. You're alive! The memories will return, don't worry about that at all. How do you feel? Have you been checked out - "

"Dana seems to be very healthy. The memory loss is most likely from trauma and once she feels safe again, I'm sure things will begin to return. Some things are already returning."

Maggie nodded, "Are you a doctor?"

"No, I'm a psychologist, but not practicing. I work for the FBI."

"So you're the one that rescued her."

"Not exactly. She was released. We really can't talk about it right now, there is an ongoing investigation."

"I want the people that did this punished Mr. Mulder. They should be thrown under the jail and kept there forever."

"I understand, but currently we can't discuss this."

Maggie looked deeply into his eyes, so this was where Red had learned it, and finally nodded. "But please, promise me that you will pursue these men."

"I have every intention of finding out everything I can about Red's disappearance."

"Red?" Maggie smiled then, her joy overcoming her anger at whoever had taken her precious baby girl.

"We didn't know her name, that's what I called her until . . ." He shrugged.

"It fits; her older brother called her that when she was little."

"He did?" Dana spoke then.

"Yes. Your older brother is Bill; he's in the Navy like your father. Your younger brother is Charlie; he's an English professor in Ohio. And you have a sister, Melissa. She's between you and Bill, and . . . she's a free spirit. I've talked to Bill and Charlie, but I haven't been able to reach her yet."

"And my father?"

"He's on his way. I haven't spoken to him directly, but they were able to contact him. He'll be so thrilled. You and your father are very close. This past year has been so hard on him."

"I wish I . . . "

Maggie shook her head, "You're home now. That's all that matters."

Before she could say anything else, they heard the front door open. "Maggie? Is she here?" An older man stepped into the living room and his eyes fell on Dana.

Mulder rose from his chair and stepped forward, extending his hand. "Mr. Scully, I'm - "

"I'm Dr. Daniel Waterston, Dana's fianc."

Mulder froze as this man took Red's hands and pulled her up and into his arms. He kissed her passionately. In his shock, Mulder didn't realize that she did not respond; her arms limp at her side.

"I couldn't believe it when Maggie called me Dana. I was so afraid that I would never see you again. I don't want to wait. I want us to get married as soon as possible. Time is too precious, we - "

Daniel finally noticed her lack of response and loosened his hold on her. "Dana?"

She had gone deathly pale, her eyes wide and frightened. When his grip slackened, she stepped back into Mulder's chest and his arm automatically went around her, anchoring her to him.

"What - " Daniel's eyes narrowed as he finally gave his attention to the man standing before him.

"Daniel, Dana just arrived. Give her a minute, please." Maggie tried to sooth things over, but it was obvious whose arms Dana wanted to be in. "I tried to tell you." She put her hand on Daniel's arm drawing his attention to her.

"Dana doesn't remember us, me, you, her family. She just got free from her captors. You need to give her some time."

After a moment he nodded slowly and took Dana's hand, drawing her back toward him. Mulder almost didn't release her, but this man seemed to have such confidence of his place in her life, more than Mulder had ever felt. Mulder let his arm fall to his side.

She looked up at him, but allowed Daniel to tug her closer. "I . . . I'm sorry, I don't - "

"It's okay. You'll remember me soon. I want to go ahead and make the arrangements. We've lost a year Dana. I don't want to lose any more time."

"I can't, please - " He took her lips again and she struggled this time, pulling away. "Please, don't, I need . . . " she glanced back at Mulder but he had turned away when Daniel kissed her. Tears filled her eyes but she didn't speak.

Maggie summed up the situation quickly. "That's it. Dana needs some time to adjust. I'd like both of you to leave."

"Maggie, we've been over this. I'm part of Dana's life - "

"You may be part of her life, but not right now. She's been through a horrible experience. She doesn't know her family or even who she is. I'm telling you that she needs some time. You can call and check on her this evening, but do not come over." She turned to Mulder then, "I want to thank you, more than I could ever express for what you've given me. I think Dana needs to lie down for a little while now, she's obviously tired and upset. We'll be in touch regarding the investigation." She began moving both men toward the door.

The two of them were each a head taller than her but she was in charge and didn't let them forget it. Mulder glanced over at Red and saw the look of fear but what was he supposed to say?

Both men seemed lost when she shut the door behind them and turned back to her daughter, who was trembling by this time, but didn't speak. "Come upstairs, Dana. You rest for a little while, then we can talk or whatever you want." Maggie put her arm around her and led her upstairs.

Outside the door, Daniel drew himself up. He was angry that he had allowed the woman to throw him out, but he wasn't about to let this man see that. He didn't bother to look over at the younger man, walking with dignity to his Mercedes and driving off without a backward glance.


Returnee 6

Mulder followed more slowly. Shock was numbing him. The relief of her not being married, not having a man in her life . . . it was gone now. A fianc? And one that he had mistaken for her father. He started the car and found himself driving back to the Gunmen's apartment.

When Frohike got the door unlocked, Mulder stepped inside and hauled the short man up by his vest. "You didn't know she was engaged?"

The other two men came running at his tone. "Mulder, what?" Byers was prying his hands from Frohike. "Calm down, what happened? Where's Dana?"

Mulder stepped back, letting himself fall into a chair.

"Mulder, where is Dana? What happened?"

"She's at her parent's. Her mother threw us out because we were upsetting her."

"Us? Who else was there?"

Mulder's eyes narrowed, "Her fianc, Daniel Waterston."

"We, we didn't know . . . " Langly's voice trailed off. Mulder wasn't listening anyway.

"Waterston?" Frohike was already seating himself in front of the computer.

"Yeah, Dr. Daniel Waterston. I don't know what kind of doctor."

"You want a drink Mulder?" Byers asked quietly.

Mulder shook his head and after a last look, the other men turned away to try to find the information he wanted, and to give him some time.

He sat in silence, unable to focus. The blow had been too swift, too unexpected. If he'd been told she was married when they had arrived yesterday, he would have been prepared, okay not prepared, but he would have had to accept it. He'd been lulled into a state of . . .

"Mulder?"

He jerked back to the present, "Yeah?"

"Did you say Daniel?"

He nodded.

"This makes no sense. There is a Daniel Waterston on staff at Georgetown. He's a cardiologist, but Mulder, he's older than me." Frohike spoke.

"That's him." All three men turned to look at him then. "I called him Mr. Scully when he came in the house."

"Why would a hot young thing like that be engaged to an old man like him?" Frohike spoke out loud, but the glare Mulder shot him shut him up quickly.

"You said she had a residency in cardiology."

"Yes, before she chose pathology. Teacher?" Byers speculated.

"Can you find out? I have to meet Diana."

"Mulder, are you sure you're okay?"

"Yeah. I'll talk to you later. The publicity?"

"Taken care of. We'll contact you."

Mulder nodded and rose to his feet. He felt tired, incredibly tired.


He let himself into his apartment and sank onto the couch, not bothering to take off his jacket. He thought he'd been prepared for this. It was what he had tried to protect them both against on the trip here. But when she'd saved that man's life, things had changed.
They had both been struck by just how quickly life could change.

She had wanted him and oh god, he had wanted her. That was the problem. He should never have indulged himself in something he wanted. He knew better. If he wanted it, it was automatically destined not to happen. He didn't date any longer; he had a purpose in life. Why had he allowed himself . . . why hadn't he just stuck with Diana? No strings, no commitments. It had been enough, along with his work.

Now he had doubts about Diana and, and Red was engaged to be married to another man. A man that was totally wrong for her.

He blinked as he processed that thought. Wrong for her? Who was right? Him? Hardly.

Diana, he needed to call her. He reached for the phone and punched in her number. He needed to find out what was going on anyway. At least he could still protect Red. That hadn't changed.

"Hello?"

"It's me. I'm home."

"Uh, that's great. Do you want me to come over?" Home? How had he eluded them this time?

"I'll meet you at the diner."

"What about - " But he'd hung up. He didn't sound right. Had Dana remembered something? She grabbed her coat and headed out.


He was already at the diner when she arrived. He wasn't watching for her and that gave her the opportunity to observe him. Dana wasn't with him. Was she in the restroom or back at his apartment? That would explain why he hadn't wanted her to go over there. If that's where Dana was, she could be picked up while Mulder was here.
He looked a million miles away.

He looked up then and she was struck by the look in his eyes. He rarely looked happy, she was aware there was a deep-seated sadness about the man. She'd used it to her advantage on more than one occasion, but now . . . now he looked devastated . . . almost broken.

He spotted her then and his expression changed, hiding his thoughts, though he didn't look any happier. He motioned to her. She ordered a cup of coffee on the way to the table, then joined him. She spotted the beer. Now that was unusual, he rarely drank. He didn't know she was aware of his father's drinking problem.

Hell she knew so much more about the man than he was aware. They had briefed her so well in the beginning. It was a good thing, he certainly didn't talk about himself to her, or anyone as far as she could tell. She had hoped to change that, but even sex - no matter how incredible - hadn't made them really close.

Diana took a deep breath and sat opposite him in the booth. She needed to get down to business. She looked around one more time, "Where is she?"

"With her family."

"What?" She couldn't draw a breath. Oh god, her family? "You know, you found out who she is?" She gripped the edge of her seat to try to keep her composure. He couldn't see her white knuckles below the edge of the table.

"Yeah, she's Dr. Dana Scully, a pathologist here in DC."

"How did you - " Was he looking at her strangely?

"That doesn't matter. We just have to make sure no one bothers her."

"Why would someone want to bother her?" Diana asked. What the hell did he know?

"Because of how she was found, where she's been. Have any of the others remembered who they were, what happened to them?"

She shook her head, "I can't find out."

"That's why I don't want her bothered. I don't want anyone to know how she was found, even where she was found. The authorities never saw her; I want to keep it that way. The story to her family is that she was released by her captors and the case is under investigation."

The tightness eased slightly - the damned little redhead didn't remember. "That might work for her family, but - "

"And the press."

"You called the press?" She paled slightly. Oh shit.

"Yes. Red understands. She's not going to blow it, not if it means losing her freedom again."

"Why did you decide - "

"The roadblocks on our route home."

"What did those have to do with . . . "

"I'm not sure, it was just a feeling." He wouldn't meet her eyes. "She's home with her family, her fianc. I just want her left alone."

"Fianc? She's engaged?"

He nodded and she found her breathing easier. That hadn't been in the report she'd seen. Good, if she was engaged, she would be off-limits to this man. His honor wouldn't allow different. That shouldn't be what she was focusing on, but she couldn't help herself.

At least there was no need to call anyone tonight. The woman was with her family and would be watched. The others had been unable to recall any of their captivity, hopefully the same would hold true of her. They could keep an eye on her from a discrete distance. As long as Mulder stayed away from her, no one would be trying to get to those memories. Maybe the woman would be 'safe' from authorities.

Hopefully she'd get married right away and play honeymoon for a very long time. Diana wanted to ask about the fianc, but he was obviously in no mood to discuss it. 'Fianc', it was stupid how much the information that Dana was taken had pleased her. He would turn to her for comfort. She'd offered it before and he'd taken her up on it. Now the earlier devastation made more sense, but it also cut deep into her. He'd only known the little bitch a few days. Yes, she could ease his pain.

"Fox, let's get out of here. You need to relax. Come to my place, we can - "

Something about the look in his eye stopped her. He'd never looked at her like that before. She felt . . . dirty.

"Thanks, no. I'm really tired." He didn't sound tired, he sounded . . . no, she didn't even want to analyze it right now.

He rose abruptly, "I'll see you at the office tomorrow. I need to get some sleep if I'm going to sound convincing in the morning." He tossed a couple of bills on the table and left without another word. She didn't turn to watch him leave. The desire to crawl into a hole was too intense. God, what had happened between them?


Blevin's secretary tapped on the door. "I'm sorry, Agent Mulder has a call. She says it's urgent."

Diana's head came up, but Mulder said nothing, just rose from the table and picked up the extension on Blevin's credenza.

"Mulder."

"Mr. Mulder? It's Maggie Scully."

"Yes ma'am." His whole body tensed.

"Could you . . . there's a problem."

"I'm on my way." He put down the receiver and turned to Blevins. "Sir, I'm sorry. I need to leave for a little while."

"Is there a problem?"

"Yes sir, it's personal."

Diana straightened up, personal? What could be personal? He had no contact with his father and his mother was in Europe on some tour. He wouldn't look over at her.

Blevins hesitated for an instant, then nodded. "Fine, we can finish this tomorrow. I hope everything is okay."

"Me too." He was out the door, nearly running.

Diana stared at the door until Blevins drew her attention. "Agent Fowley? Are you - "

"I'm sorry sir. I believe we can finish this without Agent Mulder."


What was wrong? He'd made a decision not to call her last night, not to run back over there. It was the right thing to do. Let her be with her family and her . . .

Had she remembered something? Was that the problem? Or had she had the kind of night he'd had. It felt as though he'd barely closed his eyes when the dream had come to him. Samantha in the bright light, being taken from him, only this time she'd had long red hair instead of dark brown. He shook his head, what good would it do to remember that. He hadn't slept again. Red wasn't there to keep the demons away. And she wouldn't be, she was engaged to be married, off limits. Which didn't exactly explain why he was racing over to her mother's house on half a phone call.

He reached the house, vaulting from the car practically before it quit moving. He knocked firmly on the door. A large man opened it quickly. "I'm Agent Mulder, Mrs. Scully - "

"Yeah, Mom said she called you. I'm her brother, Bill." He stepped aside, letting Mulder in. "Mom's upstairs with Dana."

"She said there was a problem." Mulder forced himself not to shove the man aside and race up the stairs.

"Yeah, it's my fault. I didn't realize . . . "

"What happened?"

"I . . . Mom told me that she didn't remember, that she had some sort of amnesia, but I guess I didn't think she really wouldn't know me. I mean, I'm her big brother. When I saw her, I hugged her. She, she freaked. I'm really sorry."

"How is she now?"

"Withdrawn, hell, she's in a fetal position and she won't talk. I never . . . "

"I need to see her."

"Sure." Bill led him upstairs and to the second door on the right. He tapped on the door, "Mom?"

"Is he here?"

"Yes." Bill opened the door wider and motioned for Mulder to precede him into the room.

Mulder stopped for an instant at the sight of her. She was curled up in a ball on her bed, eyes tightly closed. It was how she had been when he'd first seen her. When Maggie's hand accidentally brushed her arm she moaned.

Mrs. Scully looked up at him, fear obvious in her eyes. She rose from the bed and approached him. "Mr. Mulder, thank you for coming."

"Was she okay, before . . . "

"No, not really. She's been on edge, tense. She didn't sleep last night, I heard her moving around and I heard her crying, but she didn't want me to be around her. I know she's not . . . comfortable here. She refused to see anyone. I think, I think she was hoping that you would come by, but she didn't say anything."

"I should have, I . . . I thought it would be best to let her get settled."

"Don't blame yourself Mr. Mulder. I'm the one that asked you to leave. There don't seem to be guidelines for this. She refused to let me call a doctor. I hoped seeing Bill would help. Her father should be here day after tomorrow."

Mulder nodded, then moved around her mother and to the bed. He glanced back at Maggie and Bill. Maggie took Bill's arm and led him from the room.

"Mom? Don't you think - "

In her mind she saw Dana step back into the man's body without even looking, and his arm automatically coming up around her. "She'll be okay with him."

Mulder glanced at the door as it shut. He'd heard the words, but put them aside to think about later. He moved closer to the bed, finally sitting carefully beside her. "Red, it's me. It's Mulder." She didn't respond so he allowed his index finger to lightly trace her cheekbone. She whimpered and drew back, but he followed. "Red, come on. Open your eyes. It's me."

She obeyed him reluctantly, still cowering. He took her hand in his and brought it to his chest. "You slept here."

Her eyes widened and with a strangled sob she threw herself at him, nearly knocking him from the bed. His arms closed around her and held her tight, rocking her slightly. "I should have been here. Red, I'm - "

"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. I don't know him. I don't love him." She was nearly babbling.

It took him a beat to realize that she was apologizing to him, for . . . for Daniel.

"Oh Baby, no. Don't. That's not important now. You're the only important thing." They were quiet then until her trembling ceased. Then he pulled back and looked down at her wet eyes. He pressed his lips to her brow. "You need to rest. Have you slept?"

"Have you?"

He chuckled then, "I'm used to it. Come on, get comfortable."

She did, in his lap and let her eyes close. "That's not exactly - " She squirmed against him. "Red," he groaned, "I've got to face your mother, and your brother. Have you seen how big he is?"

She smiled slightly then, but relented and stretched out in the bed. "Will you stay?"

He nodded, "I may not be in the room. I need to talk to your family, but I won't leave."

That seemed to relax her the rest of the way and she sighed, already drifting off, now that she felt safe again.

He stayed until her hand released his and her breathing grew heavy and even. He rose carefully. She didn't stir, so he let himself out, pulling the door nearly closed behind him. There was no one around and he heard nothing, so he headed downstairs.

He found Bill in the kitchen, watching the coffee brew. The large man straightened up immediately. "Is she . . . "

"She's asleep."

Bill nodded.

"Is your mother around?"

"She's lying down too. I don't think she's gotten much rest last night."

Mulder sighed, "I shouldn't have - "

"Stop. Whatever you're going to say, what happened is my fault. Mom told me she didn't remember, but . . . hell, she's my little sister. I just didn't believe she could forget me."

Mulder nodded his agreement.

"You have a sister?"

"Yeah."

"Try to imagine her disappearing and - "

"I know."

"What?" Bill stopped pouring the coffee to look at the man, his tone had . . .

"My sister was taken too; a long time ago."

"No shit? Hey, I'm sorry. How long was she gone?"

"We, uh, we never found her. It's been twenty years."

Bill's eyes widened. "Oh man, I'm sorry. I . . . "

Mulder shrugged, "it's why I joined the Bureau." He stood there, mildly embarrassed and frankly surprised at himself. He'd talked about Samantha again. It was like Red had opened up some sort of emotional floodgate in him. He wasn't entirely sure it was a good thing. He cleared his throat and accepted the mug Bill offered. "Has, has her 'fianc' been by?" He hadn't meant to say it with quite that tone.

Bill motioned to the table. "Sounds like you're not real taken with old Danny Boy either. Stress on the old."

Mulder shrugged, "I don't know him."

"You haven't missed anything. He's not right for my sister." He took a sip of his coffee. "What about you, married? Involved?"

"Uh, neither." He studied his shoes so he couldn't give anything away.

Bill grinned. "Dana would kill me."

"For what?" Mulder looked up surprised.

"Trying to fix her up."

"Fix her up?"

"Yeah, with you."

"Me?" Only one word, but his voice broke.

"Hey, at least you're the right generation." Bill chuckled, then took a deep breath. "You must have just walked away from work when you got Mom's call."

"It was your mother; of course I did."

Bill appraised him, "You are interested in her."

"Your sister is too good for me."

Bill smiled, "Well, I can't dispute that. She probably is the best of us. Oh, I do okay - career Navy and moving up the ranks. Charlie's a professor, Ph.D. and all. Then there's Missy."

"Your mother called her a free spirit."

"Mom would put a good spin on it."

Mulder took a sip, "So he hasn't called or come by?" He couldn't help himself, it was Daniel he wanted information on.

Bill snorted, "Fianc. Hell, none of us even knew they were engaged before she disappeared. In fact, I thought they'd split. I knew he wasn't happy when she switched to pathology and I was thrilled about that - the split, not the pathology."

"You don't like him."

"He has a daughter my age."

"Does your mother - "

"Mom kept quiet. She learned her lesson with Missy. She told Missy what she thought of a guy she was seeing. That's when Missy rebelled, dropped out of school and followed the jerk across country. They're not together anymore and Missy won't talk about it, but she can't seem to settle down either."

"What about you? I mean, Navy but what about wife, kids?"

"Me? No. But I have found her. Tara, Tara Hodges. I haven't exactly asked her yet. She's too good for me too, but . . . I don't know, after all this with Dana." He shrugged.

Mulder looked over at the door as she entered and rose to his feet. Bill's eyes followed him, then he saw her as well. "Red? Did you get enough sleep?"

Returnees 7

Mulder looked over at the door as she entered and rose to his feet. Bill's eyes followed him, then he saw her as well. "Red? Did you get enough sleep?"

She nodded.

"You want some hot tea?" Bill offered.

"Thanks." She spoke softly, shyly.

"Look, I . . . I'm sorry. I never meant to scare you."

"I know. I . . ." She glanced over at Mulder. "Why don't we talk or something."

Well, she obviously wasn't scared when this Mulder guy was around. "I'd like that." Bill took the mug of hot water out of the microwave and moved toward the table. She and Mulder sat beside each other, with Bill at the head of the table. Bill noted immediately how she leaned toward the man. He wondered if Mulder was aware that his arm was protectively draped over her shoulder.

They talked, with Bill answering questions, keeping it light. After a few minutes, Mulder and Bill both realized that she wasn't listening, she'd spaced out or something.

"Red?" Mulder's arm tightened around her, but she looked at Bill.

"Who's Ahab?"

Bill's face brightened with a huge smile. "Dad. That's what you call Dad. You're remembering."

She turned immediately to face Mulder, a look of hope on her face.

"Dana? Do you remember what Dad calls you?" Bill asked gently.

She searched for it, but then shook her head.

"Starbuck. That's from Moby Dick too. I'm not surprised that's the first thing you remembered."

"Why?"

"You and Dad are close. You're his favorite."

"Favorite? I'm sure - " She immediately demurred.

"Yeah, he loves us all, but you've always been special."

"Me? Why?"

"It's not a secret or anything, but Mom . . . she had a baby that died after Missy was born. I was four but I remember it. Then when I was six, you were born and, and it was good again. Then Charlie was born. I told them they should have stopped while they were ahead." He grimaced comically.

"Wha . . . what?" She laughed nervously.

"Charlie's a smart ass. No doubt his classes are very well attended."

"Co-eds?" Mulder asked.

"No, not Charlie. He's the only one of us that is married. He's so in love with Mary his eyes cross when he looks at her. They got married when they were still undergraduates and put each other through graduate school. They're expecting their first baby next month, which is why he's not here right now. I . . . I envy them, which is another reason to go ahead and quit wasting time."

"What? I don't - " Dana looked confused

"Mulder and I were talking earlier. I think I'll be asking Tara to marry me as soon as I see her again."

"Tara?"

"You don't remember her? I've been seeing her for about two years. You've met a couple of times. She's great."

Dana nodded.

A movement made Bill look up, "Someone's here." He stood and looked out the window of the back door. He glanced back at them to see that Dana had tensed up again. "Dana, I think it's the police. Mom called them this morning to let them know you were home."

Mulder squeezed her shoulders, then joined Bill at the door. "Please don't identify me as FBI. I can explain later."

Bill looked over at Dana, whose expression was begging him to agree. He nodded and moved toward the front door.

After a moment, Dana and Mulder followed him. Bill was looking at the man's badge. He nodded for the two of them to join him. "This is Detective Lewis. My sister, Dana."

Lewis held out his hand and after the briefest hesitation, Dana shook it. "I'm very pleased to meet you Dr. Scully." Then the detective looked over at Mulder and waited.

"This is a friend of mine from school - " Bill motioned toward Mulder.

Mulder extended his hand then, "Marty Fox. Pleased to meet you."

"Family friend?"

"Yeah, I heard Dana was home and wanted to offer my congratulations. I can wait in the kitchen."

"No, that's okay. I just wanted to ask Dr. Scully a few questions."

Bill motioned toward the living room. "Why don't we have a seat in here? Do you want me to get my mother? She's resting upstairs."

"No, that won't be necessary. Thanks." He took the seat offered and watched as the two men flanked Dana on the couch.


Detective Lewis closed his notebook and stood. He was clearly not satisfied with what he'd heard, but it seemed to be all he was going to get. "Dr. Scully, I am very happy to have you home safe. I hope your memory returns soon and I'd like to talk to you again."

She nodded.

"Are you seeing anyone about . . . "

Dana glanced at Mulder. "Marty is a psychologist. I'm comfortable with him, so maybe . . . "

Lewis looked over at the young man and visibly relaxed. "Well good. I'm glad you're getting some help. Please let me know how you're doing."

Dana rose then, as did Mulder and Bill. "I will and thank you for coming over . . . and for searching for me."

Lewis nodded and turned toward the door. Bill let him out, then returned to them. "Okay, want to explain why you didn't want him to know you're FBI?"

Mulder looked down at Red, "Not really, not yet. This is an ongoing investigation, but . . . "

"Bill, please. When I remember, and I will, we'll tell you everything. Mulder's just trying to protect me."

"You need protection?" Bill tensed.

Mulder faced them, "Not as long as she doesn't remember."

"I don't like the sound of that."

"I don't blame you, but I want to make sure she's not taken again."

"You . . . I thought the guy released her or, or died, and she got away."

"She got away." Mulder said solemnly.

Bill looked at him for a minute, "You'll keep her safe?"

"Or die trying." Mulder responded.

Dana's eyes grew wide, "Mulder - "

"Red." It was all he said but she subsided. Bill watched the two; it was almost as if they didn't need words to communicate.

"Maybe I should look in on Mom." Dana said.

"She'd like that." Bill nodded. Once she was out of sight up the stairs, he turned to Mulder. "Exactly how long have you known her?"

"Uh, a week tomorrow."

Bill blinked but made no comment.

Maggie came downstairs with Dana, slightly embarrassed she'd slept so long. "I understand I missed Detective Lewis."

"It's okay. Dana answered his questions. You needed your rest."

She sighed lightly. "It's nice to have both of you here. What about some lunch?" Her look included Mulder.

"Uh, I appreciate it, but there are a couple of things I need to do. I'll drop by later, if you don't mind."

"Come for dinner Mr. Mulder. It'll be just the four of us."

He looked over at Dana, who nodded. He smiled then, "Thank you, I'd love to."

Dana walked him to the door after he said his goodbyes to Maggie and Bill. "Mulder, you will come back, won't you?" She sounded young and uncertain.

"Red, I'll be here. I promise."

He saw the tension leave her shoulders. "You're the only one I know." She whispered.

"Red, it's going to come back, it already is. Ahab."

She managed a tremulous smile and nodded. "She says we eat at seven."

"I'll be here before that. I'll run by the office and - "

"Diana?"

"No, not Diana. She does know you're back and with your family."

"I'm sure she was thrilled." Dana sniffed.

"Don't worry about Diana. You have no reason to worry about her at all. There's something I need to check out, but I will be back. I'll help you set the table."

"You're on." She gave him a chaste kiss on the cheek and even then he looked to see if they had been observed.


He looked better when they let him in their apartment this time.

"Mulder? Something happen?"

"I don't know, it's a . . . a feeling. Bill says the family didn't even know about the engagement before she disappeared. How long has this Dr. Waterston been divorced?"

"Uh, Mulder, we were looking into that. He's not divorced."

"What?" Mulder stopped in mid stride and looked at Byers.

Byers shook his head, "He's not divorced, not even a legal separation."

Frohike rotated his chair from in front of the computer. "I talked to a friend of mine that works at the hospital. He and his wife separated a couple of weeks before Dana disappeared, but he went back to her about three weeks after she . . . "

"Three weeks?" The SOB had given up on Dana after three weeks? He'd been looking for Samantha for over twenty years. "Are you telling me that he went back to his wife without even - "

"Guess he didn't want the scandal. He's a very important man, one of the top cardiologists in the country. He was her mentor."

"Her mentor. The bastard was her teacher?"

"A little more than that. He was guiding her into an important field."

"But she left it and went into pathology."

"Yeah. Makes you wonder how that went over, doesn't it?"

"He's not divorced." Mulder said again, shaking his head. "Okay, what have you found?"


Diana was startled to see him in the office. She hadn't been aware he'd returned. He certainly hadn't bothered to look her up. He was so absorbed in the computer that he hadn't noticed her. The man was certainly going the hell out of his way to make her feel like she was his partner.

She stepped around to see what had his attention so riveted. Her movement alerted him and he snapped off the screen, but not before she had seen it.

"Uh, Diana, I didn't hear you."

"And I didn't realize you were back. Is everything okay?"

"I was able to help. Does Blevins need me?"

"No. I finished up." She waited to see if he would offer any more.

He didn't. It was almost as though he was waiting for her to leave. Instead she moved to the files and opened a drawer. She had nothing in mind, but wasn't about to walk away. He watched her for a minute, then seemed to sigh and pulled open a file.

To her honest amazement, he began working on his expense report. He never did that, not until she harassed him for days. Damn it, damn him! She pushed the drawer closed and left the office without a word. He didn't bother to call after her.

She hurried to the cubicle she used on occasion and booted up the computer. He'd been looking at the website of Georgetown Memorial, some doctor named Watson or something. She began her search.

It didn't take long, Waterston. Daniel Waterston. But why? Who was the man? A cardiologist, famous if the website was accurate. Maybe he had been on a personal errand, if his father had developed a heart condition Fox would relent and want to see him, wouldn't he?

She wasn't accomplishing anything here. Maybe she should check it out. If there was a health problem in his family, she needed to know. She grabbed her suit coat and headed out.


Her badge intimidated the receptionist in his office. She called the man's assistant and again Diana flashed her badge.

"Is this something that I could help . . . "

"No. I need to speak with the doctor himself."

The nurse sighed slightly, but the woman was FBI. "He should be finished with his patient in about fifteen minutes. Can you wait and see him between appointments?"

After a moment, Diana nodded. "Thank you." She moved to a small sofa and picked up a magazine. It was only about ten minutes before the nurse called her back.

"He's almost finished. Why don't you wait in his private office."

"Thank you; that would be fine."

The doctor was hurrying when he came through the door. "FBI? Is this about Dana?"

Diana blinked, rethinking her approach rapidly. What did he have to do with Dana?

"Have you seen her since she - " Diana started.

"I saw her Sunday afternoon, but her mother . . . I allowed the woman to send me away. I could tell Dana was upset, but that's all the more reason to have stayed. I am her fiance. I need to help her through this time."

Diana struggled to keep her face impassive. This man was her fiance? He had to be close to twice her age. And Mulder had been investigating the man. He had to know this doctor had nothing to do with her abduction, so it was personal.

"Of course you do. I just wanted to make certain that you knew about her rescue and had been in touch."

He seemed a little surprised at that, then squared his shoulders. Of course the FBI would be in touch with him. He was a leader in his field. It made sense that they would send someone to inform him.

"Yes. I appreciate you stopping by. I should not have let Maggie send me away. I do have another patient. Is there anything else?"

"No. I'm sorry I took up your time, but we wanted to be sure that you had been informed."

"Thank you." He glanced at his watch and Diana took the hint. She had things to do anyway. She held out her hand to shake and after a moment he took it, then held the door open for her and moved away from her down the hall.

The nurse seemed relieved to see her leave, but no more than she was. Diana hurried to her car and sat there for several minutes. Mulder was checking up on her fianc. He wasn't going to walk away from her, which meant that he would be working on her memory. Shit.


Mulder helped set the table with Dana, while Bill helped their mother in the kitchen. It was fun; they laughed and Bill told embarrassing stories about her as a child, until she begged her mother for help.

Mulder was surprised at his appetite. He usually grabbed a burger or ordered a pizza, but here he was with a full dinner and rivaling Bill in cleaning his plate. The two women laughingly complained about not getting enough to eat.

Maggie watched her daughter, frankly amazed seeing the difference Mr. Mulder's presence made. She had become a little distant when he had left that afternoon and watched for his return, but not to the extent of the night before.

It had been a mistake to send this man away last night. The problem had been Daniel. His presence had upset her, but Maggie hadn't been aware of the bond between these two. In fact, it hadn't occurred to her, and it should have.

"Why don't we have dessert in the living room? We can look at those albums that I laid out."

Dana blushed, "We're not talking bearskin rug pictures, are we?"

"Well, there are a few in the tub."

"Red, I'll need to investigate everything." Mulder grinned at her.

She rolled her eyes, but with him here, nothing was really upsetting her. She felt safe. Mulder made himself comfortable beside her on the couch and took the cup of coffee Maggie handed him. This was truly outside of his lifestyle, coffee and dessert, hell he didn't even have a living room. But it felt good.

Mulder was smiling down at the little girl with the red curls, listening to her mother's stories, but looked up when the doorbell rang, and caught Bill's eye. Bill stood and moved toward the door, looking out the glass side panel. Mulder couldn't see his face, but noted that his step faltered.

Mulder tensed immediately and cautiously unsnapped his gun.

Returnee 8

Bill opened the door, but didn't move to allow the person entry. "Daniel, what are you doing here?"

Dana tensed immediately and reached for Mulder's hand.

He took it in his own and squeezed. "Don't worry." Then he rose and was standing when the two men entered the living room.

The sight of him caused Daniel to hesitate. He noted that Dana's hand was lightly touching the man's thigh as he stood beside her. The older man's eyes narrowed and he stepped forward.

"I need to speak with Dana." His voice held the kind of command that rivaled her husband's, but Maggie spoke quietly.

"I don't believe she's ready to talk to you, Daniel."

"And I don't believe that would be your decision Maggie." He must have realized that Bill took a step toward him, but in his arrogance, he wasn't intimidated. "Dana is a grown woman and we need to discuss our - "

"Your plans?" Mulder spoke for the first time.

"Excuse me, I don't think that - "

"That I should be a part of this." Mulder finished for him and nodded, "I understand and you may be right, but some law enforcement agency will get involved sooner or later."

"Law enforcement? I beg your pardon."

"Well, bigamy is against the law so - "

"Bigamy." Maggie said it before anyone else could, but Dana leaned back slightly and a tiny smile played around her lips. She kept quiet.

"You have no idea what you're talking about."

"As a matter of fact I do. Since Dana didn't remember you, I thought it wise to check into a few things. I understand that Dana's family was unaware of an engagement before she was taken."

"We were being discrete."

"Discrete." Mulder nodded. "I understand that you had left your wife prior to her disappearance."

"Yes. Listen, I was questioned by the police. I had no - "

"I'm not accusing you of having anything to do with Dana's disappearance. I do however question the fact that you moved back in with your wife, three weeks later and were still living with her day before yesterday."

"Son of a - " Bill snarled behind the man.

"Now wait just a minute. I maintain the same residence, but I - "

"But you never filed for a divorce or a legal separation."

"I spoke with my attorney this afternoon." The older man didn't seem to notice the bead of sweat that was moving down his sideburn.

"Guess the papers didn't make it to court before closing." Mulder mused.

Finally Dana stood, very close to Mulder. "I think you should leave."

"Dana, I can explain. We thought you were dead. I was afraid that I would never see you again."

"You decided I was dead after three weeks." She looked up at Mulder and he knew she was comparing this man's actions to his own. "Then I think you should continue to think of me that way."

"We were in love, Dana."

"Really? Because it just doesn't feel that way to me."

"We've spent no time together, Dana. As soon as you're yourself again, you'll remember. We'll work together again, you were on your way to becoming a brilliant cardiologist. Together we could - "

"I'm a pathologist." She saw his eyes narrow and he glanced at Mulder again. "Please leave; we were having a family evening."

Daniel opened his mouth, but couldn't seem to think of what to say. Bill took his arm and he jerked away. "Keep your hands off of me."

"Fine, I'll just hold the door."

Mulder was reminded again of just how large a man this brother of hers was. Apparently Daniel noticed it for the first time himself. "You don't understand."

Bill smiled at him, though it looked slightly feral. "That's okay. I don't want to." He moved back toward the front door and held it open.

Daniel took one more look back at Dana, but her face showed no emotion whatsoever. She didn't remember him. He looked down, then straightened his shoulders and followed Bill.

"Dana," he stopped just inside the door. "I will be in touch."

She didn't respond and he moved past Bill, who shut the door forcefully behind him.

By the time Bill stepped back into the living room, his little sister was in a total lip lock with her rescuer. Bill cleared his throat and Mulder pulled away, his face scarlet. "Uh, I - "

"Yeah, I got that." But Bill grinned.

Dana and Maggie gathered up the plates and took them to the kitchen and Bill moved over to Mulder. "A week, huh?"

"Listen - "

"You make her feel safe. I appreciate that."

Mulder had no way to respond, so he just stood there. When the women returned, he approached Dana. "I should probably - "

"No, we aren't through with the albums."

He looked over at Maggie. "She's right. It's early, please stay." He glanced at Bill who was already taking his seat.

"There's this one picture of Dana, trying to hit a baseball; man does she look spastic. Where is that one Mom?"


She walked him to the door, but she wasn't ready to let him leave. "I wish you could stay."

"I can't do that, Red. Do you think you'll be able to sleep tonight?"

"Will I see you tomorrow?"

He nodded.

"Then I'll sleep, but what about you?" Her arms went around him.

"I'll do the best I can." He leaned down and gave her a quick kiss on the lips, but her arms tightened. By the time he drew breath again, he was extremely glad he'd already said goodnight to the others. "Cut that out or I'll throw you over my shoulder and abduct you myself."

"Promises, promises." But she wasn't smiling now.

"I will see you tomorrow. I have to work, but I'll call and stop by after I get off."

"What if they send you out of town?"

"Don't worry about that. I'll see you tomorrow. I need to get out of here."


Mulder was waiting for Diana when she got into the office the next morning. "Do you know what's happened to the others that were found?"

"Good morning to you too, Fox."

He tried to relax his stance. "Have you been able to find anything?"

"No."

"Are they still being held?"

"Fox, I - "

"Until I know that they've been released and are allowed to lead their own lives, I'm going to do my best to protect her."

Diana certainly didn't have to ask who. She was still trying to decide how to handle the information she had obtained yesterday. "From her fiance?"

He winced at that. How did she know about Daniel? "He wasn't the right man for her."

She looked away at those words. The right man. The words seemed to cut through her and she could feel her life's blood leaking away. He cared for this woman.

He looked at other women, those videos; she was used to that. But he'd never approached them. When he'd needed . . . release, he'd come to her. She had always
thought that more would develop. He was comfortable with her, she'd assumed . . . she'd obviously assumed too much.

Diana turned so he couldn't see the tears that had welled up in her eyes. What was she thinking? She couldn't let him see her like this. She left the office without another word. He watched her, but didn't attempt to follow.

At lunch he'd have to stop by the guys' place and see if they had been able to uncover any information about the others returned in Oregon.

He pushed Diana from his mind and looked through the latest file that the VCS had sent down. That had been part of the agreement and right now, he wanted to stay low key, actually play within the rules.


He pulled up in front of her house and saw the strange car in the driveway. He got out and hesitated. Dana opened the door and hurried out to him.

"Is everything okay?" He watched her approach him.

"Yes. Dad got here a day early."

"Oh. Uh, maybe I shouldn't intrude, I mean - "

"Mulder, you are the only topic of conversation in which I can participate. He can't wait to meet you."

"Wow. I haven't met a girl's father since high school."

She smiled, "Well I guess that's good news." She squeezed his hand, "Of course I'm not surprised that you haven't met Diana's father. She was probably hatched anyway."

"Ooooh, why don't you tell me how you really feel?" He grinned.

She sighed, "I'm sorry. I don't like her and I really don't know why. I didn't like her even before I found out you'd made love to her - "

"Hold it right there. Red, look at me. I did not make love to Diana. We had sex, two bodies in need. Now I know that makes me sound like a real shit, but it happens to be true. And for the record, we weren't together but a few times. You and I have very nearly matched it already."

"Now that is good information." Her hand came up and tweaked his nipple through his dress shirt.

He grabbed her hand and stepped away. "Red, since I'm just about to meet your father, I think it would be a really good idea if my slacks fit."

She didn't blush as he expected, but gave him a truly evil grin, then, finally tugged him toward the house. Oh he was in trouble.

Captain Scully met them at the door with his hand out. "Mr. Mulder, I am very pleased to meet you. I owe you a debt that I can never repay."

Mulder shook the proffered hand as they moved inside. "I'm just happy it turned out this way Captain Scully."

The man seemed to be having problems with his emotions and Mulder looked down at Dana. She moved closer to the man and put her arms around him. He hugged her tightly, then nodded at Mulder.

"I never gave up that we would get her back."

Mulder nodded.

"Bill told me about your sister." Dana looked up startled, then smiled. "Did you ever give up?"

"Not yet. Maybe once for ten minutes, six years ago."

"Um, Mr. Mulder, would you like a drink?"

Before he could respond, Maggie came out of the kitchen. "Mulder, no one told me you were here." She brushed a kiss on his cheek, then glared at her husband, son and daughter. "Dinner is almost ready, Mulder could you get the napkins out?" She turned and moved back toward the kitchen.

Captain Scully just looked at Mulder, "I, uh, I've been here a lot recently."

"I guess you have. I don't even know where the napkins are kept."

"That's because you've never set the table." Maggie called from the other side of the dining room, then moved on into the kitchen.

"Well, that's probably true."

"It's definitely true Dad." Bill responded with a grin.

Mulder smiled as well, shedding his coat, then moved toward the server where the napkins were stored.

Dana sat beside him with Bill across the table and her parents at either end. Occasionally Mulder noticed that her father would just stop eating to look at her. William caught him watching finally and cleared his throat, "So, Mr. Mulder, does your family live in Washington?"

"Just Mulder, please. My mother lives in Greenwich, but she's in Europe right now. My father lives here, but I don't see him."

"Oh?"

"I lived with my mother after their divorce. My father works, worked, for the State Department and traveled extensively. I didn't see much of him. When I was 18 I went away to school and eventually ended up in England to get my Ph.D."

"How long have they been divorced?"

"I was, uh, thirteen."

"Was that when your sister . . . "

Mulder nodded. "They just couldn't live with each other after that."

"Have they remarried?"

"No, neither of them ever did."

"Maybe they still have feelings for each other." Maggie offered.

"Well," Mulder managed to smile slightly, "my mother has feelings for my father, but they're not the type you get married about."

William nodded and looked at his own wife. Dana's disappearance had brought them closer. He hadn't gone out on assignment for months, which actually made this the first time they had lived together, just the two of them. Maggie felt his gaze and smiled at him.

Bill cleared his throat, he'd seen the byplay between his parents. "Well Mulder, you'll have KP to yourself tomorrow. I've got a flight early tomorrow morning."

"You're leaving?" Mulder looked up quickly.

"Yeah, Dad's here, so I should head back."

Mulder nodded, "You have something important to take care of."

"I sure do." Bill grinned.

"And would that be something your parents should know about, Bill?" Maggie asked quickly.

"I'll, uh, I'll get back to you." He looked down at his plate to hide the sparkle in his eyes.

Maggie turned to Mulder, "I guess that makes you an official member of the family - helping the children keep secrets from us. Not that they were ever very good at it."

Mulder's eyes widened, 'official member . . . ', he felt Red's hand squeeze his leg and turned to look at her again. Then he cleared his throat. "Well, I really think I should be the one taking all of you out to eat. I've imposed - "

"Son, it's not an imposition. Maggie is in her element cooking for her kids again. Relax."

Son. The man had called him son. He took a small sip of wine to try to get his composure back.

"But you know, that's not a bad idea. Maggie, you've been in the kitchen for days. Why don't I take you out tomorrow. I'm sure Mulder and Dana can find something to do." William watched his wife as she smiled her thanks and nodded.

Mulder was sure his cheeks were stained dark. Dinner wasn't the first thing that had come to mind, and her hand on his leg let him know the same was true for her. He looked up to see Bill struggling not to laugh and just shook his head. This was the family he should have been born to, except of course for that pesky incest thing.


He and Red had washed up and he was watching her move around the room as he rinsed a serving bowl. "Do you remember him Red?"

She paused to think about her answer. She didn't have to ask what he meant. "I don't remember things, but he feels familiar. Does that make sense?"

Mulder nodded, when he'd seen her offer comfort to the man in the entry, he'd seen their relationship. His smile dimmed, how long before they found out about his reputation and forbade her to see him.

"Mulder?"

He shook his head, "Your parents are good together."

She waited, but that was all he said as he turned back to the dishes.

It was amazing how familiar he felt in this kitchen, even more than in his own. Of course, he didn't cook in his own kitchen. Red was putting things away when she suddenly jerked her hand back, "Ow!"

"What?" He moved quickly toward her.

She held up her hand, a bright red spot of blood was growing on her right ring finger. "I think I stabbed myself."

"Here, let me - "

But she had focused on the scarlet drop and her body stiffened.

"Red? Red!" He caught her as she toppled backwards toward the floor, her body rigid. Her eyes rolled back into her head and she began to jerk.

Maggie was the first to reach the kitchen, but Bill and her father were just behind her. "Oh my god!" Maggie knelt beside her. "William, call 911."

"No wait, please, just a minute." Mulder immediately spoke, but didn't remove his arms from her body.

"Mulder, she needs help." Bill was already moving toward the phone.

"No, look, it's ending." Mulder scooped her up and with Maggie leading the way, carried her to the couch in the living room. "Red, Red listen to me, it's Mulder. Please."

She stirred, moaning slightly, then opened her eyes to see his frantic face looming over her. "Mulder." Her arms went around his neck, burying her face against him. "I remember." She whispered against his throat.

Returnees 9

She stirred, moaning slightly, then opened her eyes to see his frantic face looming over her. "Mulder." Her arms went around his neck, burying her face against him. "I remember." She whispered against his throat.

"What, Baby, what do you remember?" He spoke quietly to her, not wanting the others to hear.

She burrowed in deeper, "Everything."

He struggled to keep the panic from his face. The others hadn't heard her.

"Dana, Honey talk to me." Her mother had taken her other hand.

She whimpered, a death-grip on him.

"Maggie, I . . . She remembers."

Maggie's mouth fell open, then she moved closer touching Mulder's shoulder to move him aside. She had Dana in her arms as tears poured down her face. Dana didn't return the hug, she couldn't release his hand.

"Starbuck? You . . . you really remember?" William spoke quietly.

Mulder forced himself to move away, to give her family room, but her eyes followed him, so he didn't move far. Bill stepped closer to him, "This is a good thing, isn't it?" He whispered.

Mulder hesitated, "Remembering you guys is a good thing. I don't know about the other memories."

"Is she in danger?"

"I don't know. Remembering so suddenly . . . she's in shock, but I think . . .not if she keeps it to herself. We have to play this very carefully."

"You know I don't understand." Bill glanced back over at her. "I want to, as soon as possible."

Mulder met his eyes. "I know." He made no commitment and Bill realized it, but after a moment nodded.

"Dana, I think we should take you to the emergency room. You had a seizure; that's serious." Her mother caressed her hand.

"No! Mulder, don't . . . " She struggled to find her composure.

"I think it wasn't a seizure as much as shock, Maggie. It just all hit her at once, she couldn't . . . she couldn't handle it. Please, let her rest tonight. If anything happens again, I'll, we'll take her to a doctor. Okay?"

"I don't like it."

She kept her eyes on Mulder. "Please, I'll rest now. I'll take it easy." Her voice was almost steady. She was obviously desperate not to be taken anywhere. She pleaded silently to Mulder for help. For some reason the others turned to him as well.

"Uh, yeah, maybe if she just goes on to bed for tonight. If she does have her memories, then she's a doctor again, she wouldn't put herself in danger."

Her parents exchanged looks, but it was obvious for whatever reason neither Dana nor Mulder wanted her to be seen by a doctor.

Finally William sighed, "Okay, but I want you to go to bed now, Starbuck. We'll be checking on you all night."

She nodded, tears gleaming in her eyes. She reached for Mulder again, and he moved forward. "Just relax." He scooped her back into his arms. "I don't want you to climb the stairs."

He carried her up to the bedroom and settled her gently on the bed. "Don't leave me."

He shook his head, "I'm not going anywhere."

"I remember . . . "

He nodded, but looked toward the door. The others were right behind them. "Not now. Don't put anything on paper. If you forget details. . . it doesn't matter, just don't write anything down."

"I won't forget." The words were followed by a barely suppressed sob.

His arms tightened around her. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry." He whispered, then turned to her father. "I need to stay here."

William nodded, "Of course."

"Do you have anything here to help her relax?"

"You mean like a sleeping pill?" Maggie asked, "Nothing prescription. I may have something I got over the counter."

"That's fine. I don't want to drug her."

Maggie nodded and left to look for some sort of mild sedative. William sat on the bed beside her, "Starbuck, I don't know what you're remembering, but it's over. You already survived it. Don't let this man win. You're free and you're here with people who love you and want to help you. Hold on to that."

She managed a small nod, but then her eyes were on Mulder again. William patted her hand and rose, motioning for Mulder to return to his seat beside her. He put his hand on the younger man's shoulder.

"We'll clear out, less stimulation. We'll be close, just yell out if you need anything. I'll check back in a few minutes." He moved toward the door.

"I'll be right behind you." Bill said quickly. His father glanced at the bed, then nodded and left the room.

"Should I change my flight?"

"I can't tell you what to do, but I really do think she'll be okay. I, I'd take her to the ER myself if I didn't." He felt Bill's tension ebb a little at those words.

"I believe that. Okay, I'll see how it goes tonight, and I'll be in touch."

"You have my number?"

"Oh yeah." He glanced over at his trembling sister, the back at Mulder. "Help her."

Mulder nodded and returned to the bed. He held her, stroking her hair until Maggie returned.

She swallowed the two small white pills at Mulder's insistence, and he watched as her mother left the room, closing the door quietly behind her.

Mulder made them comfortable then, sitting back against the headboard with her tightly against his side. "Do you want to talk?"

Her voice was low, even this close he could barely hear her, "What if I'm not here."

"What? What do you mean Red?"

"These people, my 'family', I've seen them before. 'They' could look like anyone and they used those faces. What if I'm still there?"

He closed his eyes then, her fear was so painful. "No Red, you're safe. You really are home."

"How can I tell?" If possible that question was spoken even more quietly. Her trembling was becoming shaking now.

"I'm here. I wasn't there, you never saw me there. You saw me when you were released." He put her hand on his chest. "You slept here."

She looked up startled at that, and he felt her muscles relax slightly. She gave the tiniest nod, "You're really here." Her hand pressed on his chest, feeling his heart beat beneath her fingers. "You're really here." She repeated.

He nodded and softly kissed her forehead. "I'm really here. Try to relax." His hand moved gently up and down her arm and she snuggled in, allowing her eyes to close.

When her breathing finally quit hitching and became slow and even, he made her more comfortable, then rose and removed her shoes, then her slacks and sweater. He'd done it before, he just hoped her family would understand. He covered her, but at that point she became restless again, so he slipped off his shoes and joined her in the bed, on top of the covers.

He held her through her nightmares and tears. He napped a little, but was awake when her parents came in to check on her during the night.

The first time he tried to move away from her when her father tapped on the door, but she cried out. Mulder looked apologetically at him, but William just shook his head, then looked at his daughter.

"I was going to ask how she was, but I heard her."

Mulder nodded. "I . . . it's going to take some time."

"Do you know what she's remembering?"

Mulder looked away. "I've got an idea."

Her father didn't ask anything else after that. He looked at Dana again, then moved back toward the door. "Don't leave her."

"No sir, I won't."

She woke a little after five. "Mulder?"

"Uh, yeah, sorry guess I drifted off."

"You stayed with me, all night?"

"Sure," he tried to grin, "You didn't even snore." She shivered, but he noted the trembling didn't resume.

"How do you feel?" He brushed the hair back from her face.

"Shaky. I need to go to the bathroom."

"Yeah, me too. Can you walk?"

She took a deep breath, "Yes." She did accept his hand to get up, but then stiffened her spine and walked alone out into the hall. He waited at the bedroom door and when she returned, used the facilities himself.

She was sitting up, propped on the pillows when he returned. "Did you undress me?"

He nodded, "Your dad didn't say anything." That earned him a weak smile. "You're looking better, steadier."

"I can't think about it. Not now."

"Okay. I just want you to be okay."

"I know." She allowed herself to lean against him and his arm came around her. "Will I be?"

"Yes." He didn't even hesitate.

"I want you to go to work."

"I should stay with you."

"I want you to, but I have to . . . I have to see if I . . . "

"You can. You're strong, you wouldn't have survived if you weren't. I think I'm the one that needs to stay with you."

She gave a weepy chuckle at that. "Just hold me until it's time to get up."

"With pleasure." He cuddled her tighter against him and they sat talking quietly until they heard her parents stir.


William opened the door. He was in uniform, obviously dressed for the evening. "Welcome son." He shook Mulder's hand.

"Is everything . . . okay?"

William nodded and motioned him toward the living room. "She's insisting we keep our plans tonight and go out."

"She's right. I'll be with her."

"Actually you haven't seen her. She's planning to go out too."

"She's feeling better?"

William nodded, "You too are very . . . close."

"We, uh - "

Her father waved his hand dismissing whatever protest Mulder was about to make. "I'm not asking. What I mean is, every time today that she started to get nervous, uneasy, the phone rang and it was you, checking on her. It was as though you knew she needed you."

"Maybe it was me, needing her."

The older man looked into his eyes then, and after a moment nodded.

They were silent then, slightly awkward on Mulder's part, more contemplative on William's.

"Sir, do you think she's really ready to go out tonight?"

"She says she is."

"She is." Dana joined them from the back of the house.

Mulder's eyes scanned her closely, not just her face. The dress she was wearing was different than anything he'd seen her in and . . . and damn. It was short, really short and black. The neckline was cut straight across her breasts, and held up, barely, by tiny little straps. He glanced over at her father and caught the man's smile.

"I, uh - "

"Yes, she does look good." Her father offered. "But of course, she is my baby girl, so I'd just as soon not discuss it with you."

"Yes sir." But he caught the twinkle in the man's eye and relaxed slightly.

"Mulder, I haven't been out of the house since you brought me home. Mom and Ahab are going out, so I thought we could too. Don't - " She raised her hand to forestall his protest. "I've rested all day and I, need to see if I can do this. Don't fight me."

"Now that sounds like my Starbuck."

Maggie joined them then, "You haven't changed your mind." She looked Dana over.

"No, Mom, I haven't. I really do feel okay, good actually. It does feel good to know who I am and where I belong. Mulder and I need to celebrate a little, okay?"

"It shouldn't be a late evening."

"Yes mother." Dana smiled.

Maggie looked over at Mulder. "I'll keep an eye on her."

Maggie's eyes dropped down to her hemline for just an instant, and Mulder felt his cheeks heat up. "Okay. We'll see you later." William had managed to convince her that if she was with Mulder it would be okay. Since she'd seen that for herself, she'd finally given in. She picked up her purse and William took Maggie's arm, leading her to the car.

Mulder turned immediately to Dana, "Red, you don't have anything to prove. "

"I do. I can either live my life or I can huddle in a corner and be too afraid to leave the house. I know I'm still shaky, but I need to do this. If I'm with you . . ."

He took a strand of her hair where it curled on her breast and twirled it around his finger.

"Come on. I want to get out of here for a little while." She looked up at him and he grinned at her. She was stronger than even he'd realized. She was more than a survivor.

"Are you always this bossy when you're yourself?"

"Yep. Think you can get used to it."

"Suppose I'll have to." She took his hand.

"I suppose you will." She turned to the door.

He seated her in the car, then got in himself. "So where do you want to eat?"

"There's somewhere else I want to go first."

"Okay." He waited.

"Your place."

"My place?" He was quickly visualizing it to see if there was underwear on the floor. She smiled slightly as she watched.

"Yes. Your place. Come on."

He took a deep breath, "Yes ma'am."

He opened the door and looked inside before allowing her to precede him into the apartment. She stopped just inside and looked around, then moved away from him, checking everything out.

"You know, I wasn't planning on an inspection."

"Too bad. Mulder, where's your bedroom?"

"I, uh, I usually sleep on the couch."

She turned to look at him then. That explained some things she hadn't realized needed explaining. He looked so uncomfortable. She moved closer and her hand came up behind his head, pulling him down toward her. His lips met hers and his arms went around her lifting her to him. Both of her arms were around his neck then because her feet no longer reached the ground.

His hands found the zipper at her back, and when she made no protest, lowered it carefully. She wasn't wearing a bra and his breath caught as he freed her from the confines of the dress.

"Red?" Was this a good idea? She'd been a basket case last night . . . but his touch seemed to have helped. Or was that a rationalization?

She smiled, his voice now registered in the bass range. He lowered her to the couch, trying to figure out how he had managed to be away from her for hours.


He groaned her name, then managed to turn so that he wouldn't crush her under him. She gasped in a breath. My god, this man was without a doubt the best lover she'd ever had, and now she could remember them. No man had ever been more giving, more aware of her pleasure.

But what astounded her was the security she felt in his arms. It had kept her sane last night and brought her to ecstasy tonight.

He pulled her tight against him, his breathing beginning to return to normal. "Red?"

"Mmmm?"

"That sounds good, was it?"

"Oh yeah, very."

He smiled, then buried his face in her hair. He felt her slip under, relaxing completely against him. He was glad, there was no reason for her to see his tears.


Her hands woke him, "Hey, getting personal Dr. Scully."

"Complaining?"

"No, but I have to take you home at a decent hour, and I do not want to explain to your mother why neither of us can walk."

She laughed out loud then. Her joy and her ability to feel it with him made his heart stutter.

"Really, I need to feed you. Come on, get up." She groaned, but allowed him to tug her to her feet. "You take the bathroom first. Remember, this is not an inspection."

"Chicken." But she turned where he pointed.

She was dressed when she returned, not that the outfit did much to hide the body he had so enjoyed just a little while ago. It was hard to believe, but she looked even sexier in the dress now that he had seen her out of it. His lips had been there, where her breasts swelled up, threatening to spill out.

"Mulder, either go get dressed or I'm getting undressed again." She grinned at him.

He took a deep breath. "I'll get dressed."

Her eyebrow rose, but she didn't stop him. Once he had disappeared, her smile dimmed, but she looked around the apartment. She checked out the fish and fed them a little of the food from the container on the shelf above the aquarium. She wandered over to the desk then and looked at the papers he had scattered around. The framed picture caught her eye. She picked it up to get a closer look, then heard him come up behind her.

His arm snaked around her, pulling her back against him. "Snooping?"

"Yes." She turned in his arms and kissed him. "Is this Samantha?"

He nodded, "That was her last school picture." She looked at it a long time. "What?"

"I was just . . . have you heard of that software where you can age someone to see what they would look like?"

"Sure. They had a prototype at the Bureau."

"I saw it demonstrated when I observed an autopsy during my training. Have you ever thought of doing that with this picture?"

He shook his head, "I never . . . I don't want the Bureau involved."

She nodded. "I was just thinking, she's close to my age. If she was returned, like I was, you need something a little more current to go on."

"It's not been perfected."

"Do you want to try it?"

"The Bureau . . ." He shrugged.

She nodded. "What about your friends?"

He stared at her then. "You know you're smarter than I am."

She smiled slightly, "I don't have the baggage you have around this Mulder." She tucked the frame in her purse, then looked up to face him. "Mulder, we need to talk. I think I can now, a little, and I need to. You haven't asked me anything about . . ."

"We should get out of here, Red. We can talk - "

"In public? Mulder, we need - "

"To eat." He insisted. "Come on, I know a place where we can have some privacy."

She looked up at him and after a moment nodded. "We can go by the guy's place afterward and leave the picture, if you want to."

"You look after me better than I look after you."

"Not really." She glanced over at the couch. "You look after me very well."

He took her hand, "we need to get out of here before you come on to me again. You'll think I'm easy and quit respecting me."

She chuckled as she reached up and pulled his head down to her, kissing him thoroughly. "Come on, you could be right."

Even though she remembered Washington now, she knew she hadn't been in this restaurant before. He requested a booth in the back. "Afraid you'll be seen with me?" She smiled over the candle at him.

He shook his head, "Just don't want to be interrupted." He took her fingers, playing with them, devouring her face with his eyes. He didn't even release her when the waiter came to take their order.

When they were alone again, she still hesitated. He squeezed his fingers.

"Red, you said I hadn't asked about your memories." He shrugged, "I'm not sure I want to hear about Daniel."

"Mulder - "

"And as for the other, I just . . . I've read the interviews of other abductees, I don't want you to . . . to relive it for me."

She shivered and managed a sad smile, "too late."

He closed his eyes and his grip on her fingers tightened again.

"Mulder," Her eyes grew moist, "You probably already know more about what, what happened to me than I do. It's against everything I thought I knew. I'm not the kind of person who ever believed in . . . I didn't believe at first. I couldn't." She shuddered slightly and lowered her voice even more. "They could look like us. I watched them do it. Sometimes they would . . . forget to change. They never spoke." She closed her eyes, seeing it again, "they could put their thoughts in my head, but . . . but they couldn't read my mind. That frustrated them."

He didn't speak, giving her all the time she needed.

"Their orders were simple at first. 'Stop.' 'Quiet.' One word orders. Later, after I'd been there longer, the commands got more complex, 'lift your hand', 'deep breath'. Sometimes they would look like someone I knew and it . . . " she shuddered.

After a long moment he nodded. "Did . . . the tests . . . "

She shook her head, "No. I can't talk about that right now."

"Okay."

"But after, after the tests sometimes people would come to me, to us."

"People?"

She nodded. "I think they were people. They couldn't, they didn't reach us with their minds. They didn't speak either. They'd probably forgotten how, like I had."

"Men? Women?"

"Both. They were . . . comforting."

"I've never heard that before. Red - "

"Then another group of, of them came."

"How . . . how could you tell?"

She paused, thinking for a moment. "They felt different. They didn't test us, they just . . . observed. But Mulder, sometimes pictures would leak into my mind from them."

"Pictures?"

"People, humans."

"Other abductees?"

She shook her head. "They made me think of . . . business associates."

He hesitated, then, "Humans working with them?"

"I don't know. All I saw were pictures, their memories or something."

She looked around, making sure the waiter wasn't coming, "Mulder, the faces that I saw . . ."

"It's okay Red, I'm right here."

"I didn't know them. I mean, it wasn't, they weren't from my memories. That's another reason why I think the images came from these beings."

He nodded.

"The one, the man that I saw most often was an older man, Ahab's age I'd guess. I . . . I think he worked with them. If you could find him - "

"Red, how could I find - "

"He had . . . he always had a cigarette going."

"Well, that narrows it down." He managed to smile.

"Mulder, several times . . . " She looked away, as though she couldn't continue.

He brought her fingers to his lips. "Red?"

"Some times there were other people. And, and sometimes the other person . . . Mulder."

"Red, what is it?" His chest was tight now, why was she hesitating?

She looked miserable, but his eyes wouldn't release her.

"Sometimes the other person with him was Diana."

Returnees 10

He froze, of all the things he'd thought she was going to say, that had never crossed his mind.

"You told me when I figured out why I didn't trust her to tell you. I must have, have recognized her on some level. I never saw her do anything, I never saw any of them do anything; they were just in their minds. She was with the man. I couldn't hear . . . Mulder?"

He still couldn't seem to move. In fact, he was scaring her. She rose quickly and slid into the booth beside him. Now it was her trying to protect him from the rest of the world, as he had done for her. Her arms went around him, giving him back the warmth that seemed to have drained from his body.

"Mulder, I'm sorry." She'd obviously handled this wrong. Her reactions were off, maybe her dislike of Diana had caused her to overreact. But when she had remembered seeing her it had seemed so clear.

"I trusted her. I . . . she found the X-Files with me."

"I know." The waiter approached to pour them some more wine, but she shook her head, cautioning him away.

"I'm a fucking idiot. I should have known, I should have - "

"Mulder, you are not an idiot. I, maybe I shouldn't have said anything, but . . . you already knew."

"What?" He finally seemed to see her again.

"You never shared Samantha with her."

"But she knew about her." He said bitterly.

"Maybe, but Mulder you still protected yourself. Part of you knew. And since you know about her, maybe she can lead you to him."

His head came up suddenly. "Find him?"

"I don't know. It's what you do, at the FBI. If you could find out what happened . . . Mulder, I'm sorry. Do you want to leave?"

"What? Uh no, we haven't eaten." He glanced around, seeming to remember they were in a public place.

"That's okay."

"No. Let's eat. I don't want to . . . "

"Okay." She started to stand, move back to her seat, but his hand stopped her and she sat back.

He managed a sick sort of grin, "I guess it's a good thing your parents aren't with us tonight for several reasons." She leaned her head against his shoulder.


He led her to the car, his hand on the small of her back. He tried to move her toward the passenger side, but she stopped. "Mulder, maybe I should drive."

"Can I trust you? You don't even have a license." He tried to joke about it, but she took the keys from his hand. He didn't protest, slipping into the passenger seat himself.

"Actually, I do. It hasn't even expired. But I may need help navigating."

"Your parent's place is . . . "

"No, the guys. We were going to drop off the picture." He had been there for her, now she could be the strong one, look after him. This was a good excuse not to leave him too soon.

He nodded, "I'd forgotten."

"If you don't feel up to it . . . "

"No, it's a good idea, and I'm not ready to be alone tonight. Not yet anyway."

"Mulder, you know I wish - "

"Sssh. I think you'll be okay tonight. You should be with your parents."

"I'm hardly eighteen Mulder, I've got to see about getting my job back, finding an apartment - "

"Don't rush it Red. You've been through a lot, more than you may even realize yet."

She turned to look at him, "We need to talk about this some more."

He nodded, but didn't commit. He sat quietly watching her then. Her hands on the wheel, her quick glances up at the mirror - she was so controlled, capable. Or was she acting? Last night she'd practically been in a fetal position, now she was looking after him - how could he be sure she was really okay?


Langly opened the door, "Hey, we just got a pizza, want some?"

Dana smiled up at him, "We just ate, I'm full. Don't know about him."

Langly glanced over at Mulder, but he shook his head, "Maybe later."

"You okay Mulder?" Frohike swallowed and asked as he eyed the man.

Dana kept quiet, this was his, to tell or not, as he wanted. Byers stood and moved closer, "Mulder?"

"There is, uh . . . " he looked up at the ceiling for a moment, then shook his head. "There's a possibility that Diana might be working with . . . "

"Oh yeah." Langly said as he moved around Mulder and snagged another piece of the pizza.

Mulder stared at him, "Oh yeah? What, you guys knew? You never - "

"Mulder." Byers spoke calmly, "we didn't have any evidence. It was just a feeling."

"A feeling?"

"Come on dude, she has access to all the stuff we do and possibly more. So how come she's so slow with the help when you need it." Langly queried.

"It's true Mulder." Byers spoke again, "Time and again we've gotten information that she should have been able to get. We haven't said anything because, well, she is your . . . "

"Chickadee?" Frohike offered.

Mulder glared down at the little man, whose face reddened under his scrutiny. "She is nothing to me."

Dana's hand touched his arm, "She's your partner, Mulder. If she has information . . . "

Mulder shook his head and stepped away from her and the others. The men watched, but kept their mouths closed. After a moment Dana opened her purse.

"Do you guys have any software that could age a person from a picture?"

Frohike looked away from Mulder and back to her. "Sure, I downloaded some a while back. I wanted to see what El Ponytail would look like in a few years."

Langly snorted, but Byers reached for the small frame. "Is this . . . ?"

Dana looked over at Mulder, but let him answer. "Yeah. It's Samantha. Think you can bring it up to . . . say 27 to 30?"

"We'll get right on it. You want to wait?"

"No. I should get Red home. Take your time."

"Mulder, if you - "

"I'll talk to you later, okay?" He wouldn't meet Byers' eyes, just taking Dana's arm.


He pulled up in front of her home, but neither made a move to leave the car. "Mulder, are you going to be okay?"

"Red, you're the one that needs to be looked after." But he didn't seem particularly steady himself.

"You could stay here again tonight. They'll understand." She glanced at the house.

"In your bed? I don't think so." He tried to smile.

"You were there for me last night. I want . . ."

He shook his head. "I don't think I'd be very good company."

She tugged his fingers from the steering wheel and squeezed them. "You know I don't want just your company Mulder. I wouldn't have survived without you last night. I want to be with you."

"I do know, but we . . . I'm sure we're later than your Mom had in mind. I need to get you inside."

"Mulder, you can call me, any time. There's an extension in my room."

"I don't want to wake your parents."

She paused then, "Mulder, are you angry with me, because I - "

He turned to her abruptly, "No. Red, I'm not . . . I don't know what to think. If I could be so blind about her, what else have I missed?"

"Mulder, Diana has to be very good at what she does. Don't blame yourself for this."

"I'm supposed to be good too, Red."

"You are the best. Believe it."

"Come on, let's get you inside before they ground you and forbid me to see you."

She sighed, "I'm here for you. Please call me."

He nodded and got out. He walked her to the door, and stepped inside with her. He noted the lights left on. "I better get out of here. I have no doubt your Ahab is listening for me to drive off."

"You're probably right." She managed a small smile. "Dinner tomorrow? Here?"

"If I'm still welcome."

"Mulder - "

"I'll be here. Maybe I'll have some information on your smoking friend."

She nodded, pulling his face down to taste his lips once more, knowing it would be a long night alone, for both of them.


Dana was moving toward the kitchen when the phone rang early the next morning. It had been a long and uncomfortable night. She hoped it was him. She suspected that his night had been no better. "Hello?"

"Dana! Oh my god! Dana, are you really back? Are you okay?" The woman sounded completely breathless and excited.

"Becky?"

"Yes! I saw the article in the paper this morning. You're home! I've got to see you. Can you go out? Could I come get you for lunch?" She finally paused for a breath.

"Becky, calm down." She actually chuckled as she visualized her friend, practically bouncing over the phone. "Yes, I can come out, but if you move your car, you'll never find a parking space. I'll pry my car keys from Mom and come over there. We can eat in the food court there at the hospital and visit."

"Dana, are you sure?"

"Yes. I need to run a personal errand this morning anyway. Twelve thirty?"

"I can't wait. You're home!"

"I am and I can't wait to see you either."

"Okay, okay. I'll let you go. Don't be late Dana, I'll go crazy!"

"I promise. I'll see you for lunch Becky, just let me get dressed."

"Yeah, okay. Bye!"

Dana hung up musing and continued on to the kitchen.

"Well," her mother observed the smile on her face, "who was that?"

"Becky." Dana smiled at her. "I'm going to meet her for lunch. Is my car running?"

Maggie's smile dimmed, "Do you think you should go alone? I mean, you haven't driven or - "

"Mulder let me drive some last night. I did very well. And I'll be in familiar territory. Mom, it'll be okay. And, and I need to prove I can do this."

"I know, which doesn't mean I'll stop worrying."

"Well I expect that." Dana smiled, "So my car is okay?"

"Yes, I drove it at least once a week; there should be a full tank of gas. You say Mulder let you drive?"

"Um hum," Dana answered around a mouthful of muffin.

"You two are growing very close, aren't you?"

Dana coughed as a crumb caught in her throat. "Uh, we . . . He's very special to me."

"So . . . so you and Daniel - "

Dana sobered, "Mom, that was a mistake. I can't talk about this now, but what I feel for Mulder after just this little time . . ." She looked away for a moment, she shrugged "There's no comparison."

Maggie nodded.

"I need to take a shower. There's something I need to do before I meet Becky at the hospital."

Maggie nodded, watching her. She knew Dana was pushing herself, when hadn't she, but she liked what she saw.


Frohike hurried to unlock the door, "Lovely Lady! We weren't expecting you this morning. Is the big guy with you?"

"No, is it safe?"

Byers came up behind Frohike, "I'll protect you from him Dana. It's good to see you. Was . . . was Mulder okay after you left last night?"

Her smile disappeared, "I don't know. He was shaken. Maybe I shouldn't have - "

"No, he needed to know. We should have said something." Byers glanced over at the other two men and shrugged, "we just didn't know what to say."

She nodded. "Anyway, I thought I'd check on the picture, see if you got anything."

"Oh, yeah." Langly turned back to the desk. "We made several, different variations, hair colors, things like that." He picked up a handful of papers, and handed them to her.

She took the chair that Frohike held for her and smiled at him, then looked at the first photograph. They had chosen her hair color and she chuckled, "I don't think so."

Frohike lifted one shoulder, "I like the color."

"Thank you, but her complexion is wrong for it."

"We tried to soften the nose, a more feminine version of Mulder's."

"Hey, his nose is perfect." She protested.

"Uh yeah, and you wouldn't be the slightest bit prejudice?"

"Who me?" She grinned. She felt comfortable here, almost as much as at home. She scanned through several of the pictures, then she stopped, the smile and color fading from her face.

"Dana? Are you okay?" Byers moved closer.

"This one . . . oh god." The edges were crumpled in her fists.

"What is it?"

"I can't . . . can I have this?"

"Uh sure. We'll get you a new copy. Dana, are you okay?"

She nodded, "I have to meet someone, a friend for lunch. Don't tell Mulder I took this. I need to see him, but don't . . ."

"Dana, why don't we call Mulder, have him pick you up?"

"No. I need to think. After last night, I . . . Please, I'll be okay." She rose from the chair and straightened the picture she had held, folding it and slipping it into her purse. Langly handed her a second copy of the same picture and she took it silently. "Thank . . . thank you."

They let her out, but exchanged looks. "What was that?" Langly asked no one in particular.

"I don't know. She looked like she'd seen a ghost." Byers shook his head.


Dana forced her mind away from the picture. She needed to talk to Mulder but after last night, she wanted to handle it better. She parked in the visitor's lot and took a deep breath to steady herself, then got out and stood looking at the hospital. Nothing seemed to have changed in the year she'd been gone, but it wasn't true. Everything had changed.

Though she had told him not to, Daniel had left his wife for her. She didn't understand that. They had fought bitterly over her decision to specialize in pathology. He had taken it personally, a slap against him, and if she were honest, that had been part of it. He had become so controlling. How could she have ever thought she was in love with him? Hero worship maybe, but he had taken advantage. When she'd finally found her backbone and walked away, he had switched to cajoling and needy. She shook her head; she was here to see Becky.

Dana locked the car and moved inside. She had no need to ask for directions and the volunteer was new, so she kept her head down and hurried. Becky had said not to be late.

She stepped into the food court, but before she had a chance to even look around, heard Becky call her name. Dana turned toward the sound to see a large table, filled with friends, standing, waiting for her. Her cheeks colored beautifully and she was passed around the table to hugs and kisses. The babble threatened to overwhelm her when Becky firmly took her arm and led her to a seat. "Enough! Let the poor woman get a breath. Dana, I'm sorry. They found out you were coming . . . "

Dana relaxed a little, feeling more protected with Becky at her side. These people were real, she was really at the hospital and, and safe. "It's okay. I'm glad to see everyone. I just wasn't expecting it."

Questions were tossed at her, but she stuck with Mulder's words - she had been released by her captors and there was an on-going investigation. She couldn't talk about it, but her health was returning and she had been back for a short while.

"You should have called me Dana. We were all so . . . you're alive. There were times . . ." Becky's eyes filled with tears.

"I know." Dana's own voice was choked. "I'm very lucky."

"Will there be a trial?"

"I certainly hope so." She responded, "But I'm not much help to the authorities. I don't remember about my captivity. I heard that the man who took me from my apartment is dead."

Becky nodded, "They found him in your car, but you were . . . "

Dana nodded, "Enough about me, really I'm going to be fine. Tell me what's been going on here."

They obliged her, changing topics. She noted others in the area looking at her and whispering, but decided to ignore it. There would be no trial, but hopefully everyone's memory would be short.

They brought her up to date on hospital gossip, leaving Daniel out of the conversation. Carol mentioned that her sister was getting married and that brought Dana back to the picture folded in her purse. How was she going to tell him about this?

"Dana? Are you okay?"

She looked up, startled. "Sorry, I guess I zoned out. There's a lot to absorb."

The others began excusing themselves to get back to work, until only Dana and Becky were left.

"Dana, I hope you're not upset. I couldn't - "

"Becky, it's fine. It was good to see everyone and also good to know I could handle it. I was pretty shaky when I got back."

"But you're okay now?"

Dana smiled, "Getting there." Something drew her attention to the door. Her eyes widened and her lips parted in surprise and, and what looked like delight. Becky turned to see what had captured her attention.

"Damn." Becky breathed. At that moment, Mulder spotted Dana and moved toward their table.

"Mulder?" Dana's eyes were locked on him.

"Sorry, I didn't want to intrude, but I . . . I wanted . . . "

Her cheeks colored again, "Uh, Mulder, this is Becky Levinson, a very dear friend. Becky this is Mulder. He helped with my rescue."

"Mr. Mulder." Becky held out her hand, which he shook. "Pleased to meet you."

He nodded and finally looked at the seat next to Dana. "May I?"

"Please." She nodded, moving her chair slightly closer. "Becky had a welcome home party for me. Everyone else has gone back to work."

"Which I need to do too Dana." Becky rose, "I'll call you tomorrow. We need to find a time we can talk, just the two of us."

"Yes, I'd love that."

She watched as Becky left out the South side of the large area. Mulder watched Dana. He looked slightly embarrassed when she turned back to him. "So, how did you find me?"

"Look, I'm sorry. I'm not stalking - "

She smiled, "Did you call her or did she call you?"

He smiled, slightly embarrassed. "I called your Mom. I know you're completely capable of - "

Her lips brushing softly across his shut him up. "Let's get out of here."

"Yes ma'am."

They rose from the table and his hand lightly touched her back to lead her out. Something made him look back and he spotted Daniel watching them from the opposite entrance. Dana hadn't seen him, but it felt . . . uncomfortable. Had he messed up a meeting between them?

"Hey, Mulder." She tugged on his lapel, "Where did you go?"

"Oh, uh sorry."

She looked up at him, trying to read that expression. "Do you have to get back to the office right away?"

"Uh, no. I have a little time, why?" Her smile sent his blood racing. "This time of day my apartment isn't that far . . . "

"What a good idea. I'll follow you."


Returnees 11

By the time Mulder reached his place, the sight of Daniel was plaguing him. She pulled into a nearby parking place and got out. One look at his face and she knew something was wrong. He led her into the apartment, but once inside she turned immediately. "Talk to me."

"Are you upset that I tracked you down?"

"Upset? Mulder - "

"Why did you want to meet Becky at the hospital?"

She shrugged, "If you leave during the day, finding a parking space is impossible. I could park as a visitor. It was just easier."

"So you . . . "

"What?"

"You didn't plan to meet Daniel?"

She gaped at him. She'd thought they would be talking about Samantha and the picture. He'd obviously forgotten about that. A look of sorrow filled her eyes. "We haven't talked about him yet."

"Red, I - "

"You need to know the truth about Daniel and me."

He winced. She saw that, and took his hand leading him to the couch. She sat and pulled him down beside her. His face was so carefully blank she wanted to caress it, but right now they needed to talk.

She took a deep breath, "Mulder, Daniel and I weren't engaged. He asked me, but I before I could give him my answer, I was taken."

He met her eyes then, startled.

She sighed, "You need to know about him."

He nodded slightly, confident he didn't want to hear this.

"Mulder, I was flattered by the attention. Here was this internationally renowned cardiologist wanting to mentor me. He thought I was good enough to be his protg. After we worked together for a while, spending long hours together, it became more . . . personal." She shook her head. "It should never have happened. I knew he was married." She looked away then.

"Red - "

She moved her hand slightly, stopping him and he was silent.

"Somehow, finally, I found my backbone. I realized that I was drawn to pathology, more than cardiology. When I worked with the police and found answers for them, it was . . . exhilarating. Being able to give people answers they desperately needed about what had happened to their loved ones . . . I told Daniel and . . . and he was angry. He couldn't believe . . .I don't think anyone had ever disagreed with him before. He had decided I should be a cardiologist and for me to defy him stunned him. And when I stood my ground . . ."

She shifted, not looking at him. "I told him I didn't want to see him any more; that I wanted to break it off. That's when he changed. For some reason it was like he wanted me to defy him, dominate him." She shuddered at some memory and Mulder leaned closer. "He left his wife and, and asked me to marry him." She shook her head again, "I'm so ashamed. I knew he was married, I knew he had a family and still I allowed myself - "

"No Red, he used you. He was an important man, someone who had power over you. He knew what he was doing. He used you, like . . . like I used Diana."

"Mulder, you didn't - "

"Yeah, I did. Okay, I don't have power over her, but . . ." Her fingers closed around his and squeezed.

"I should have known better, I did know better." She said again, resignedly.

"Red, you were the victim. You know that don't you?" His hand turned to take hold of hers and he looked at how their fingers merged.

He didn't meet her eyes, so she leaned in, dipping her head so that she could see his face. He looked at her then. She looked so relieved, as though his opinion really mattered to her.

"Mulder . . . "

"Yeah?"

"You, you don't really think I wanted to see Daniel? I honestly didn't even think about him being there. That's how unimportant he is to me."

His finger traced her cheekbone, seemingly unintentionally. He couldn't stop himself.

"Make love to me Mulder."

His head came up immediately, his eyes meeting hers. She saw the want, the need in his eyes and leaned in to kiss him. They had learned about her together, she still needed to learn about him. This streak of insecurity kept surfacing and she needed to know more about that.

Since he was hesitating, she reached over and loosened his tie.

He watched as she removed the tie, and unbuttoned his shirt. She didn't love Daniel.

His hands caressed her shoulders and down her arms. She smiled at him then. This man meant so much to her. He had saved her in ways he would never understand by his love, his support.

She was in love with him. The thought made her pause. "Red?"

She leaned in to kiss him and his arms went around her. "Please." She whispered in his ear. His body responded to her immediately and he felt her smile.

He released her long enough to remove her sweater and slacks, leaving her in panties and bra. "You know, I'm going to have to invest in a bed."

"Good idea, but not right now, okay?" She reached for him again. She unbuckled his belt and slipped it from the loops. He was breathing heavily now.

Once his slacks and boxers were tossed on the coffee table with her clothes, she pushed him toward the couch. He watched her as she stood over him, then she reached around and unfastened her bra. His breath caught and his hands moved toward her. She smiled stepping back out of his reach. His eyes narrowed playfully, but he waited.

She suppressed her own smile at the look in his eyes. He wanted her; that was obvious. Painfully so by the look of him. She slipped a finger into her panties and touched her wetness. His breath stuttered and his hand twitched to touch her. "Red." He managed to groan. She removed the damp silk panties and let them fall to the floor.

Her eyes smiled then and moved to him, straddling him. His eyes widened and his hands went around her waist to touch her, but let her take the lead.

His eyes never left hers as she rode him toward ecstasy. She was so beautiful. Did she have any idea what she meant to him? He felt the change in her rhythm and then she tightened around him. That was all it took and they came together. She collapsed onto his chest and his shaking arms held her close.


Daniel let himself into the office, and called for his nurse. She knew that tone and hurried to his office. "Yes sir?"

"Do you have the card of that FBI agent? The one that was here yesterday?"

"Yes sir, I'm sure it's still at the desk. I'll look."

"I need it." He turned away from her. She backed out of the office and hurried to the front desk. She rummaged through the paperwork that the receptionist had left, muttering again about the inefficiency of her co-worker. It wasn't like the younger woman's cup size made her office skills any better. She finally located the card stuck in the desk pad. She moved quickly back to the office before he could have a chance to become annoyed.

"Dr. Waterston, I found the card. Would you like me to call her?"

"No, I'll take care of it. Take my next patient back and I'll be there shortly." He closed the door firmly behind her and took a seat behind his desk. Why had they been at the hospital? Had she come to see him and the agent followed her? That would make sense. Dana was a special woman, much more so than the two women he had seen since she disappeared.

He had been so relieved when Maggie had told him that Dana didn't remember her life before her disappearance. He had thought that would give him the time to straighten things out between them. Their relationship had been rocky just before she vanished. Then this man had interfered, even to the point of investigating him.

It wasn't too late to get things back on track. He just needed to get this Mulder out of the picture. Their life would have been perfect and it still could be.

He dialed the number and was already tapping the desk impatiently by the second ring.

"Agent Fowley."

"Yes, Ms. Fowley, this is Dr. Waterston. You were in my office yesterday, regarding Dr. Scully."

"Yes sir." Why was he calling her? She still hadn't decided how to handle this part of the equation.

"Are you familiar with an Agent Mulder?"

She tensed, now what? "Yes sir." She didn't dare offer anything.

"Was he involved in the investigation surrounding Dr. Scully's disappearance?"

"No sir. He works in a different division."

"Do you know of any reason that he would be involved in her case?" The man sounded impatient now.

"Well, yes. He was there when she was . . . released. He assisted in transporting her home, but - "

"He brought her home? From where?"

"I, I'm afraid that is part of the investigation."

"Why, if Agent Mulder is not part of the investigation, would he be involved in bringing her home?"

"I'm sorry, Dr. Waterston. Agent Mulder just happened to be in the vicinity and is a veteran agent. Since she was being brought to DC, I'm sure the Bureau would request his aid in such an assignment."

There was a slight pause. "Then why would he be investigating me?"

"Excuse me?"

"He has inserted himself into areas that do not concern him. I need to know the name of his supervisor."

"His supervisor? Excuse me, I don't understand."

"If he is not a part of the official investigation, and was only involved in transporting Dr. Scully here, I want to request that he be asked to leave the family alone."

"Dr. Waterston, could we meet to discuss this? I'm not sure I understand."

Daniel hesitated, in his mind scoping the woman out. She was older than he usually was interested in, but her body was in good shape. He shook his head; that was unimportant. "Yes, that would be fine. What about the Watergate, six o'clock."

"Thank you, that will be fine. I'll see you there."


He was at the bar when she entered. She was a fine looking mature woman. He hadn't really looked at her yesterday. Dana had been on this mind. That reminded him, he needed to call Kristi and tell her he was busy this week and wouldn't be able to meet with her.

Daniel rose as she approached and raised a finger at the waiter, who immediately came forward to seat them at Dr. Waterston's favorite table.

"I'll have another Scotch rocks, Carl. What about you Miss Fowley?"

"I'll take a Scotch too. Thank you."

Daniel nodded his approval, too bad she wasn't his type. When the drinks were brought and Carl had left the table, he looked at her. "How well do you know this Agent Mulder?"

"We've worked together off and on for over a year. We've been partners for six months."

"Partners? Then you should know him. I am not under investigation regarding Dr. Scully's disappearance."

"No sir."

"Fine, then I want that man to back off. My personal life is none of his business, my relationship with Dr. Scully is none of his business. I would like the name of his supervisor to ensure that he understands his place."

"Dr. Waterston, Agent Mulder and I have an assignment that will take us out of town tomorrow. I'm sure that will give you and Ms. Scully time to work out your situation without bringing the Bureau hierarchy into it. I will personally discuss this with Agent Mulder."

Daniel's eyes scanned her face. So, this woman was involved with Agent Mulder and wanted a resolution as much as he did. He idly wondered what the younger man saw in her. After a moment he leaned back. "You will be out town." She nodded, "All right, I will wait. But, Agent Fowley, if he continues to harass my fiance when he returns, I will speak to someone at the Bureau."

"I understand. I appreciate you giving me the time to take care of this situation."

Dr. Waterston picked up his drink and nodded to her. She picked up her own glass and took a sip, they had reached an agreement. Now she'd have to find a case this evening that Blevins would approve.


Mulder looked up as Diana entered the office the next morning. She didn't speak, just slapped the tickets on the desk in front of him.

"What's this?"

"Blevins wants us to go to Illinois. We're to work with the Chicago field office on a series of murders."

"Chicago?" He picked up a ticket and looked over it. "Today?"

"We leave at three. Do you have your bag with you?"

"No." Of course not, he'd had no warning on this.

"Then you better go pack. Do you want me to pick you up on the way to the airport?"

"No. I'll meet you there. Do you have the file?"

She nodded. He stood and moved around her, heading for his car.

He made a beeline for the Scully home. Dana answered the door. She looked surprised and very pleased. "How did you know I wanted to see you right now?"

"You did?"

She shook her head slightly, "I thought I made that clear yesterday."

Finally a smile appeared on his face. "Yeah, that was pretty clear."

"Well finally." She stepped back, "Come on in. It's a little early for lunch."

"Actually for a change I'm not here to eat. Food." He clarified as her eyebrow rose and that sparkle appeared in her eyes.

"Too bad." She took his hand and led him toward the living room.

"I can't stay. I, I have to go out of town this afternoon and I wanted you to know."

"For how long?" She sat on the couch and he took a seat beside her. She still hadn't shown him the picture that the guys had created from Samantha's school picture. Well, it wasn't something she could go into now. They needed time alone. When he returned . . .

"Don't know. The Chicago office has a case they want me to try to profile."

"You won't be going alone." It wasn't a question.

"No, Diana will go too. She is my partner. The fact that I don't trust her . . . "

"There might be an opportunity to ask her about the man with the cigarettes."

He nodded, that thought had occurred to him.

"When do you have to leave?"

"My flight is at three. I need to pack and get over to National. I wish I had time to take you to lunch."

"Mulder, it's okay. Will you, will you call me?"

"Count on it." He glanced at his watch and rose reluctantly. She stood beside him and he took her into his arms as though she had always fit there against him.

When they finally broke for air, he looked down at her and brushed the hair back from her face. That was when he noticed that Maggie stood discretely in the doorway. "Maggie, I - "

"Good to see you Mulder. We weren't expecting you for lunch."

He stepped back away from Dana. "No, I'm not here for lunch. I have to go out of town and I wanted to . . . "

"Out of town? Can you tell me where, or is that classified?"

"Chicago. I hope I won't be gone long."

"We do too. Well, I just wanted to say hi." She gave him a light hug and disappeared into the back of the house.

"She saw us." He looked uncomfortably down at Dana.

"Mulder, I'm 28 years old. She's aware of my past relationship with Daniel. I don't think giving you a kiss in the living room shocked her."

He nodded, "I really do need to get going."

"I'll miss you."

He didn't speak then, just taking in her face with his eyes, memorizing every feature yet again.


Maggie saw how unhappy Dana was when he left. Their relationship was moving very fast. Dana wasn't a child and Mulder seemed like a much better match for her than her other relationships, but still Maggie wanted to know more about him.

He was bright and seemed to have an impressive career, but he had not really talked about his personal life, except for his parents' divorce. Maybe she should spend a little time with him herself.


Mulder had been gone about thirty minutes when the phone rang again. Dana hurried to it, hoping he'd call once more before he left. There was no reason for him to, but she missed him already.

"Hello?"

"Dana, Sweetheart, it's Daniel."

She closed her eyes, he'd said he'd be in touch. Damn it. She took a steadying breath. "Yes?"

He hesitated, she still didn't sound very friendly. Had she recaptured any of her memories? "I need to see you Sweetheart. I have a couple of hours now. Could we get together?"

She glanced around the kitchen as though expecting answers to pop out of the cabinets. None did, so she focused on the phone again. "Why don't you come over here?" She shuddered slightly at the thought. She was repulsed by the man. He'd never called her Sweetheart until she'd stood up to him.

"I'd rather have some privacy Dana. Your parents - "

"Dad is at work. Mom was going to run some errands. Here will be fine."

He hesitated, but at least she was agreed to see him and Agent Mulder was out of town. "Okay Sweetheart. I'll be there in half an hour."

"I'll see you then." She hung up first and turned to see her mother coming into the kitchen.

"Was that for me?"

"No, that was Daniel. He's coming over to see me."

"When?" Maggie stopped in mid-reach for the refrigerator door.

"Now. While you're running errands."

"Dana, are you sure - "

"It will be okay. I have to talk to him sometime. I'd just like to get it over with."

"I don't feel right, leaving you alone."

Dana smiled slightly and moved closer to her mother, giving her a quick hug, "I'll be okay. And I know you'll hurry home."

"Count on it." Maggie sighed, "I'll go on now, so I can get back. Dana, you will be careful."

"I promise."


She was nervous though. Dana felt her heart rate soar when the doorbell rang. Her hand was on the knob, but still she hesitated to actually open the door. Taking a deep breath, she finally turned the knob.

"Daniel." She stepped back to allow him entry.

He reached to draw her into his arms, but she retreated another step, so his arms fell back to his side. He glanced around the foyer. The dining room was to the right with the kitchen beyond that. The living room was to the left. He glanced briefly at the stairs, but he'd seen no car in the garage. Apparently they did have privacy to talk.

"You look beautiful Dana. No one would be able to tell that you had been though such an ordeal."

Her mind flew to the tests she'd endured and he saw the slight shiver that she tried to suppress. "You said we should talk, Daniel."

"Of course." His hand touched her elbow, leading her to the living room. He paid no attention to the furnishings. His were grander and more expensive and in his mind that was all that mattered.

She motioned him to take a seat on the couch, so he did. Once he was seated she took the chair across from him. She could see that he was miffed at that, but waited. He was the one that had asked for this meeting.

"Dana, I realize I've handled things badly since you returned. I was just so happy to have you back. I want us to be the way we were. You were going to join my practice, we were going to be married."

Her eyebrow rose, but she didn't speak.

"I know, I should have finalized the divorce, but Dana, you don't know how devastated I was by your disappearance. That suite I was in was so impersonal. I . . . I needed familiar things around me."

Dana still didn't speak and he was becoming uncomfortable.

"Please, Dana, we had plans, wonderful plans and now that you're home - "

"I remember."

"Excuse me?"

"My memories have returned." She didn't imagine the sudden pallor of his skin. Apparently this wasn't the best news.

"You . . . Dana, that's wonderful. Really. So, you know how good things were between us."

"No, what I remember, Daniel, is that we were over."

"Dana - "

"I told you that I was going into pathology and you were furious when I refused to back down. I haven't changed my mind."

"It's that man, the one who brought you home - "

"Did you hear anything I just said Daniel? It was over before I was taken. I tried to tell you. I wanted you to stay with your wife; I wanted you to be a father to your daughter. I've moved on. I've been through . . . Daniel, what I went through made one thing clear to me, I'm going to live my life, my way."

"But together, Dana, together we were magic. I've never met anyone like you." He was leaning forward now. Without thinking, she leaned back trying to put more distance between them.

The move seemed to anger him, and he reached out, taking hold of her arm. "Dana I need you to listen to me. We'd had a little argument before you . . . but not enough to - "

"Let go of me."

Instead of listening, his grip tightened.

She felt fear for the first time since his arrival. This had been a mistake, seeing him alone. His breathing was heavy and his look was determined. He was bigger than she was, even if she'd been in top shape. It just hadn't occurred to her that he would try to force himself . . . The doorbell startled them both and his grip loosened.

She was able to jerk away and sprang to her feet.

"Dana - "

She was moving toward the door. Whoever it was, she was glad to see them. Hell, she'd invite someone sporting "The Watchtower" into the house right now.

"Dana, please, we're not through - "

"Oh yes we are." She jerked the front door open to see the startled face of Melvin Frohike. "Frohike." She barely breathed the name.

One look at her face and he stepped inside, ready to do battle for her, whatever it was. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing now. I'm glad you're here."

He didn't believe her and stepped toward the living room. Frohike spotted the doctor standing just out of sight from the door.

"Daniel Waterston." Frohike spoke to himself, but he looked over at Dana. "Are you alright?"

She nodded.

He looked her in the eye, then took a step toward Daniel. "You need to leave now Dr. Waterston."

"I beg your pardon?"

"I believe Dana is ready for you to leave."

"Who the hell do you think you are?"

"A friend." Frohike turned back toward Dana. "Do you want him gone?"

"Yes."

Daniel looked up at her, outraged. "You don't mean that."

"I do mean it Daniel. Don't come back, don't call me."

"Dana, I - "

The small man stepped between them. "You heard the lady."

Daniel took a step closer and Frohike's partially gloved hand came up and touched his custom made shirt.

Daniel's mouth opened, but something in this little man's eyes caused him to rethink his words.

"Do you want to take this outside, Waterston?"

Daniel stepped back, pulling his suit coat straight. "I'll never understand you Dana, or what you're willing to give up."

"Then it's a good thing you don't have to dwell on it. Have a nice life Daniel."

Some unseen signal seemed to pass between Dana and her protector, because his hand closed on Daniel's elbow. "I'll show you out."

Daniel didn't speak, but didn't resist either, pulling his dignity around him.

Frohike opened the door and watched the doctor step outside. Dana joined Frohike at the door, standing slightly behind him. Daniel turned before stepping off the porch. "Dana - "

"No, Daniel."

Frohike met his eyes. "Tell Kristi hi." He said softly, dangerously.

Daniel's eyes widened and two red spots appeared on his white cheeks. He didn't speak then, turning abruptly and walking rapidly to his car.

"Kristi?"

"You don't want to know."

"You are absolutely right. Can I get you some coffee? And then you could tell me how you happened to show up just when I needed you?"

Frohike looked embarrassed and unsure for the first time. "Oh that, well . . . "

"Mulder told you he was going out of town and to keep an eye on me, didn't he?"

The little man looked down and actually shuffled his feet.

"Thank you for taking him so literally. That could have been . . . "

"He's gone now Dana. You just let me know if he ever tries to contact you or bother you again. I'll take care of him."

She started to smile, but the look in his eyes made her stop. He was serious and she believed him. He would take care of Daniel if he bothered her again. She found herself relaxing another notch. She had found some very good friends recently.


Returnee 12

This guy they were searching for was nasty. Mulder wanted a shower desperately, anything to get away from the case. And he wanted to talk to Red. He needed to hear her voice. He had shrugged off his suit coat and loosened his tie when movement caught his eye. Before he could reach for his gun, he recognized the woman coming out of his bathroom.

She was wearing a lacy black teddy. Her large breasts were threatening to spill out of the top. He'd always been a breast man, the larger the better, but now after Red . . . Red was the perfect size, she made this woman seem disproportionate or something. He didn't feel an instant of arousal, only . . . revulsion.

"Fox, come on. Let's forget about today. We both need to relax a little." She moved toward him, her hand out. Without thinking he backed up a step. That caused her to halt in the small motel room, suddenly very unsure of herself.

"Fox - "

"Get out." He hadn't bothered to ask how she had gotten in; he didn't seem to care.

Her eyes widened, his voice was completely devoid of all emotion.

"Fox, we . . . " the look on his face stopped her.

"Get dressed and get out Diana. We don't have to talk about this again."

She opened her mouth to respond, but he had turned away. Not, however, before she saw his expression. Mortification suffused her and she snatched up her robe. She had badly miscalculated. Without looking at him, as he stood on the far side of the bed studying his feet, she rushed out. All semblance of dignity was gone at this point.

When he heard the door slam shut he let his shoulders slump. He felt filthy; he couldn't even call Red, not now. He moved toward the bathroom, shedding his clothes as fast as he could.

The shower he took in the cramped bath with the heavy industrial colored shower curtain was as hot as he could take it. His skin was red and fevered when he stepped out into the steam. His skin was sensitive from the scrubbing he had given it, so he didn't pull on any clothes, just wrapping the not quite soft towel around his waist.

He collapsed on the bed and looked at the phone. Yeah, he needed to talk to her, at least hear her voice.

"Hello?" A female voice, but not the right one.

"Maggie, hi."

"Mulder, I thought it might be you. Are you okay? You sound a little . . . tired."

"I am. It's a tough case."

"I'll get Dana for you. Good luck."

"Thanks." He waited impatiently for the sound of her and he wasn't disappointed.

"Mulder?" He could feel the tension lessening just from hearing her voice. "Mulder, are you okay? Mom said - "

"I'm better now." He would swear he heard her smile.

"Talk to me." She felt comfortable again, close to him.

"You first Red. How was your day?" He stretched out on the bed.

"Uh, well I've been doing research on the innovations in pathology for the past year. There are some new developments in DNA that are fascinating. But not as fascinating as you."

He felt himself smile for the first time in hours. "Who are you Red?"

"What?" She chuckled nervously.

"Nobody does what you do for me."

"I . . . I haven't done anything."

"Yeah, you have. I can't talk about the case, but you made it better just getting on the phone."

"I wish I was there." She spoke softly, but he heard the sincerity.

"I wish you were too. You can't imagine how much."

She wasn't sure what to say to that, so she kept quiet for a moment. "Is there anything you can talk about?"

"Do you own a black teddy?"

"Uh, no."

"Good. Don't ever get one."

"O . . . okay. Are you going to explain that?" She gave a nervous chuckle.

"No. Red, I don't want to, but I have to get off. I'll be up most of the night anyway going over this stuff. I just needed . . . "

"You can call me anytime. If you need to talk at three in the morning, just call."

"I don't think the captain would appreciate that."

"He'd understand. I'm not kidding Mulder, call me."

He sighed lightly, "Just knowing I can helps."

"When will you be home?"

"I'm not sure. As soon as possible. I really need to get started. Night, Red."

"Good night." He reluctantly hung up the phone. Her voice really had cleansed him a little. He picked up the file and began retracing the evidence they had.


He actually hung his coat on the coat rack, rather than drop it on the chair. Red would be over tonight. It had been days since he'd seen her. The phone calls just weren't enough and he wanted the place to look at least okay. He turned toward the kitchen, but stopped at the knock on the door. Was she here already?

He pulled open the door with a smile on his face. It faded when he saw Diana standing there. "What do you want?"

"We need to talk."

"I don't think we have - "

She looked him in the eye and he looked away first, but allowed her entry. They had barely spoken since the debacle in his motel room and that had been fine with him. She didn't move toward the couch, standing in the entry while he reluctantly closed the door. He turned toward her but didn't offer her a seat.

"You're a fool Fox."

He blinked, "Wha - "

"You're a fool." She repeated. "They're watching you. They've been watching you. And they know about her, they've known from the beginning. Oh, if someone else had found her, had harbored her until her memory returned, then maybe she could have slipped under their radar, but no, you had to find her, you had to bring her home and now you have some sort of relationship with her. That puts her in even more danger."

"I - "

She continued as though he hadn't spoken. "You're throwing everything away, Fox. They've indulged you so far, letting you play with the X-Files. You are an incredible profiler, or you were. If you'd only go back to that . . . but you won't. You're obsessed with finding your sister. Fox, if Dana remembers what really happened to her, hell, who knows what they'll do. And if she doesn't, Mulder do you honestly think she'll stay around, with you?"

He tried not to react to that. "What are you - "

She didn't give him a chance. "Fox, you are an incredible lover. Technically probably the best I've had. But technique isn't everything. A woman needs to feel a little emotion behind the act. I don't think you know how to do that."

"Diana this isn't - " He should be angry, so why was his predominant feeling fear?

"Let me finish. She's going to leave you Fox, it's inevitable. You're not a long-term kind of guy, not for a woman like her. Look at your relationships. And when she does go, you'll realize what you've lost. Your career, your reputation, your dignity . . . and me."

He managed to keep quiet then, waiting, though he wanted to shove this woman up against a wall and demand that she take it back, all of it. She didn't know what she was talking about. Of course there had been no emotion with her, but it wasn't like that with Red. And Red knew it, she did, she had to.

"If you try to stay with her, they'll take her again or you'll get her killed, you'll get us all killed. I'm getting out before that happens. I requested a transfer and it was granted. I'll be leaving for Europe at the end of the week. You do what you have to do, but . . ." She stopped, shaking her head. She knew her words would have the desired effect. She hadn't studied the man this long without knowing his weaknesses.

His face was shuttered now, but she knew the pain she had caused, as well as the insecurity. Oh yes, she was good at what she did, and she knew when to cut her losses. He would selfdestruct, and most likely take his precious Dana with him, but she would be out of the line of fire.

"Think about what you're doing Fox, before it's too late." She turned then and let herself out of the apartment, shutting the door behind her.

After a moment, he moved with a heavy tread over to the couch. Get her killed? Have her taken again, like Samantha was? And it would be his fault, just like Samantha's disappearance. How could he live with that?

He didn't hear the knock on the door. He didn't react until she stood in front of him. "Mulder?"

"Red. I . . . I didn't hear . . . "

"Are you okay?" She sat beside him, taking his hand. He didn't grip her fingers or play with them. Something was definitely wrong.

"I, uh got a new case. I was thinking about it."

"Your door was unlocked."

He glanced in that direction. How long had Diana been gone? Apparently Red hadn't seen her. "Guess I was preoccupied." He made himself focus on her. He didn't want her to know what Diana had done to him. He had to think and he couldn't do that with her here.

"When did you get it? You were okay just a little while ago."

"Yeah, sorry." He shrugged, trying to at least look normal. She didn't need to see his devastation. He just needed to get her out of here. He had to think.

Dana nodded, watching him, then leaned forward and touched his face. "Mulder, there's something I need to talk to you about. Maybe now isn't the best time, if you're thinking about a case, but I've been trying to find a good time and - "

"What? Is something wrong? You're okay aren't you?" He couldn't help himself, she was the only thing that mattered any more.

She looked into his eyes, surprised. "I'm fine, I found out something and I need to share it with you."

"Found out something?"

"Do you remember when we took the picture of Samantha over to the guys?"

"Yeah, I'd . . . I'd forgotten. Did they age the picture?"

She nodded and pulled the uncrumpled copy from her bag. "This is it."

He took it from her reverently, "She's beautiful."

"Yes, and kind and gentle."

"Wha . . . Red? What did you say?"

"I've seen this woman. Mulder, she's . . . she's one of the women that came to us after the tests." He stared at her, not speaking, too stunned to speak.. "Mulder?" She pulled him against her and held him.

He felt stiff, wooden. She wasn't sure he could even feel her. Maybe she'd done this wrong again, but the knowledge had begun to weigh on her. He needed to know, he needed . . .

He jerked away from her suddenly and moved to the other side of the room.

"Mulder?"

He shook his head.

"Mulder talk to me, please. I know this is a shock, but I thought you should know."

"She was there? She . . . Samantha works for them?"

"No, I mean yes, but not like the smoking man. She was helping us."

He took a shaky breath, but couldn't seem to speak.

"There were four of them. This woman, a blond woman, a redheaded man and an oriental man. They all came to us at one time or another. They never spoke, but they would hold us, just be with us. I can't tell you that this is your sister but -

He held up his hand and she fell silent. After several very long moments he spoke, but didn't look at her. "I need to work on that case I was talking about."

"You, you want me to leave? Mulder, I've just told you I think I've seen your sister. I can't . . . you can't just turn to a . . . a case. We need to talk about this." He'd been out of town for days. She had thought they would discuss this, that she could support him tonight. She'd screwed up again. She should have kept waiting for a better time, but she'd felt so guilty, keeping this from him. If this was his sister, then she was alive. His voice brought her back.

"I'm sorry, but I think it would be a good idea right now." He looked away. Too many blows, too fast. If he had an actual sighting of her . . . but that would keep Red near him and therefore in danger. God, he was almost physically sick. He needed some time.

"I don't."

"What?" He couldn't even remember what he'd said last.

"I don't think you should be alone. You're in shock. You've been there for me constantly since you found me out in the woods. I - "

"No. That's not how I . . . I need to be alone. I'm used to it. I'll call you tomorrow." Go. Please go Red, before I grab you and never let go.

"Mulder - "

"I'm not, I'm not angry, Red. I just need to think about . . . about things. I need . . . "

She rose and moved toward him. He managed not to flinch, but she could tell he was on the edge. "Okay, I don't agree, but I'll leave. But you have to promise to call me in the morning. Mulder, promise me."

"Yeah, yeah I promise."

Her hand reached out to touch him and he couldn't stop himself, he stepped back. He saw the hurt in her eyes, but no words came to him.

She took a breath, "Okay, I'll go now. Mulder, if you change your mind, I . . . I'm here to talk or just be with you."

"I know."

She stood there for a minute, looking at him, then finally turned toward the door. This didn't feel right, but it was what he said he wanted. He felt distant from her. She desperately wanted to take him in her arms. But he'd cringed from her. Maybe she should give him some space. She felt . . . she was scared, but he was the strong one. He'd be okay.

With one last look she moved to the door. He'd promised to call. By morning maybe he'd be okay.

He watched her go, scarcely able to breathe but it was for her sake. If she stayed with him they'd take her or, or kill her. Diana worked with them, she knew what they were capable of. It didn't occur to him to think about Samantha. The pain of losing this woman, Red, was too intense.

He stood where she left him for nearly ten minutes, then he finally leaned over and picked up his keys. He was moving like an old man, but then he felt old. He really had no destination in mind when he got in his car; he just needed to get out. The apartment held too much emotion; the sight of his couch where they had made love would kill him now.

He found himself in front of the guys' apartment and after he realized it, parked and got out.

"Mulder? You okay?" Byers opened the door and Mulder walked in without a word.

Mulder sank into a chair as the other two gathered around. Langly and Frohike looked over at Byers who shrugged.

"I saw the picture."

"The picture? You mean the one of Samantha? Dana really freaked when she saw it, then she didn't mention it again. We weren't sure if we should say anything or not." Byers sat beside him.

"She was there, with Red. Not like Diana, not just a memory, but there."

All three men froze in shock. "She was . . . Samantha was there?"

"Which means she could be released as well. I just have to, I need to know if other are going to be released."

Byers nodded, "We were looking into that. We been studying the distortions we saw when you went to Oregon."

"You've seen them again?"

Frohike nodded, "They're beginning to form in Nevada. We were going to call you."

"Where? I need to get out there." He moved toward the computer screen, allowing himself to feel something for the first time since she had left his place.

"Alone? Mulder what can you do - " Frohike started to argue.

"Yes alone. I need to see what's going on. I need to see what I can do."

Langly caught Byers' eye. That wasn't a tone they had heard from the man since Dana had come into his life. Something was going on. Byers shook his head slightly.


The desert made it harder to hide than the wooded area where she had been returned. But he'd been here a couple of days; he'd had plenty of time to scope the place out. He had parked his rental jeep in a washed out ravine to wait. He hated waiting. It gave him too much time to think. Like he needed time to remember Diana's words.

"Do you honestly think she'll stay around, with you? You're not a long-term kind of guy." Just because every other woman had left . . . He hadn't dated in high school. Everyone on the Vineyard knew the story, or some version of the story of Samantha's disappearance, so he wasn't exactly someone a mother wanted out with her daughter.

It wasn't until Phoebe that he'd realized some women could find him physically attractive. At least that's what she'd led him to believe, but he wasn't man enough to keep her. She'd taught him a lot, but what he remembered most was that she had used him, over and over and then . . . then she'd left. Moved on to the next unsuspecting . . . There had been other relationship disasters. Disaster, what an understatement. He'd given up on relationships, and decided on videos, 1-900 numbers. He was better off alone. Diana had seemed the perfect solution, but she'd been using him too, keeping him complacent.

Dana was too intelligent to want someone like him. He'd read her thesis, he'd laughed at the irony of it given how they'd met, but now . . . He was the weirdo in the basement who believed in little green men. She'd realize that soon enough. Spooky had a whole new connotation now.

He felt the change, air pressure? Something was making the hair on his arms stand up. It was getting dark rapidly, he reached for the flashlight, but before he could exit the vehicle, the first flash of light appeared in the near distance. He scrambled from the jeep.

Before he could reach the first site, a second light flashed down. The first returnee was a man. He was unconscious of course, but Mulder had to know who the next one was. A woman, not Samantha, younger than Red. Another one, farther away. He raced over and spotted another man.

His head came up when he heard motors racing his way. Shit! He'd hoped to have more time. He wasn't ready. Headlights appeared and he instinctively ducked. All of the returnees were unconscious, dead weight. That first guy, he'd been 6'5" at least, over 200 pounds. And the woman was furtherest from his car. A search light came on from the lead car, making his decision for him. Crouching he moved as quickly as possible for the ravine where his jeep was hidden. He could make out forms running toward them now. Definitely military; and no doubt wearing night vision goggles, so he had to stand out like a sore thumb. He pushed himself into a burst of speed and threw himself into the jeep. He'd been here long enough for it to cool off, so it should be a surprise. He could hear them yelling behind him now. Shit!

He switched on the headlights and heard them howl as the light overloaded their goggles. He gunned it, backing out of the ravine and spinning the car around in a maneuver that would have made James Bond proud - as long as he didn't realized how close Mulder had come to flipping the damn thing. He killed the lights again as soon as he hit the paved road. He was lucky there were no helicopters, but apparently the military was smart enough not to want to share air space with something like this.

He raced back to the crummy motel he'd checked into earlier, and let himself into his room with shaking hands.

He'd blown it. Blown it completely and nearly gotten caught in the process. If they'd gotten him, what would have happened to Red? Diana said they were watching her, he didn't dare disbelieve her. He'd put Red in even more danger tonight just being here.

He was a fool, coming out here like this. He was completely unprepared. He'd brought no clothes for them, made no arrangements for care. Diana had helped him when he found Red. She wouldn't have if she'd known, but she had helped. Was he capable of doing this alone? Stupid question, he had to be.

He stretched out on the bed, his body coming down from the adrenaline. He had to do better than this. He forced the tremble from his hand when he noticed it. For an instant he looked longingly at the phone, but turned away. He couldn't talk to her; he wouldn't know what to say.


Returnees 13/?

He let himself into his apartment. He was exhausted, both mentally and physically. He'd caught the first morning flight home. He might as well have taken the red-eye. He certainly hadn't gotten any sleep.

His eyes seemed to have barely closed when the nightmares had begun. They had started normally, with Samantha's body floating away and him paralyzed on his knees unable to take the gun in his hand, but it had switched to Red almost immediately, her red hair falling away from her face. It had changed then, he was finally able to move, to race to her. That was new; he'd never been able to move before.

But when he'd reached her, she'd laughed at him, turning away. He had tried to pull her back but she had just looked at him until he released her. She'd moved into the arms of a man. When he'd looked up, Daniel had been laughing at him as well.

Mulder had jerked awake then, and lay there staring at the ceiling. It had been a dream, only a dream. She'd told him about her relationship with Daniel and it was over. He believed her, besides that wasn't the problem anyway.

He had finally drifted off a few hours later. The second nightmare had been different, Red strapped to a table with needles and tubes in her body and she was screaming, crying out for him. He couldn't reach her, he couldn't move and then she was gone.

He'd awoken screaming her name and it had taken him a while to calm down from that one. He hadn't attempted to sleep again. He'd taken a shower and gotten to the airport a couple of hours before the first flight.

Now he was home and it wasn't any better. She was in danger because of him. He should have known; he shouldn't have had to have Diana tell him something like that. He wanted to crawl into a cave and never come out. Maybe that way he wouldn't draw them to Red and she would be safe.

He hadn't even made it to his couch when the pounding started on his door. Now what?

He jerked the door open and the three men piled into his apartment. "What? Are you stalking me now?" He asked but he sounded defeated.

"You're a real shit you know. How could you have run off like that without a word to her?" Frohike snarled at him.

Mulder didn't have to ask who he meant, looking away.

"What the hell were you thinking? She freaked man!" The little man continued.

Mulder's head shot up. He looked immediately over at Byers, his eyes questioning, pleading.

"She was . . . upset." Byers spoke cautiously.

"How upset? Is she okay?"

"She was better, I think, after we talked to her. We didn't tell her what you were doing." Byers tried to reassure him.

Better? God, what had he done? But she wasn't safe with him. Shit!

"Are you gonna call her?" Frohike demanded.

"I don't - "

"You can't do that to her." The little man stepped closer to him.

"Come on man, she's in love with you. You can't - " Langly stopped when Mulder's head swiveled toward him.

"What?" Mulder blinked at Langly. In love? No, no woman like her would fall in love with him. But Langly had noticed something? Langly? Again Mulder glanced over at Byers. The bearded man nodded.

"What are you going to do Mulder? What happened?" Byers asked with sympathy.

"We can't . . . it's not safe for her to be with me. Maybe if I disappear they'll forget about her, leave her alone."

"Why isn't it safe? Did they catch you?" Byers asked quickly.

Mulder shook his head. "I blew it. I was helpless."

"The coordinates were right, weren't they?" Langly asked.

Mulder closed his eyes. "Yeah, right on the money, but so were they. There was no time . . . " He shook his head.

"So they still don't know about Dana." Frohike said, it wasn't quite a question.

"They know. They've been watching her. They know about her relationship with me. They could take her again, or kill her to make sure she doesn't remember."

"Where did you hear this Mulder?" Byers was watching him closely. The man was in pain, maybe not physical, but pain nevertheless.

"Diana."

The three men stopped all movement, staring at him.

"Okay, I fucked up. Could you give me a little time? I need to decide, I need to think." Mulder shook his head.

"Mulder, you okay?" Byers' hand rested on his shoulder.

"No." He gave a sick sort of chuckle. "Look, I just need a little time."

"Okay, we'll get out of your way." Byers nodded to the rest of them.

"Don't take too long, Mulder. She deserves to know what's going on." Frohike stood his ground.

After a moment Mulder nodded to him. At that Frohike turned and followed the other two men out of the apartment.

Mulder let himself fall back against the door jam, too weary to make a decision. He slid down into a squat and let his head fall back. She wasn't in love with him; at least she wouldn't be for long. He should be used to that by now. He had to keep her safe. If it meant never seeing her again . . . oh god. He shuddered at the thought.

He didn't know how long he stayed crouched there, but he had to use a chair to get back to his feet. He had to talk to her. He trudged out to his car and drove the familiar route to her parent's home.

She threw the door open when he rang the bell, taking him into her arms. "Mulder."

He held her, he couldn't stop himself. It was probably the last time and he couldn't force himself to let her go.

When she finally pulled away and looked up at him, he allowed it. "Come on in. We don't have to stand here."

"Uh, could we go out?"

"Sure." She smiled up at him and touched his face. She'd been so worried about him.

He watched her walk away to get her purse and fought the urge to weep. He straightened up when her father walked into the foyer.

"Mulder." He shook the younger man's hand. "Are you okay?" Captain Scully was looking at him closely, too closely.

"Yes sir."

Captain Scully hesitated, "I understand your job calls for a great deal of confidentiality and I appreciate that; however, if at all possible, I would like for you to give Starbuck a little warning. She's still finding her way back."

"Yes sir. I apologize for - "

"Son, no need to apologize to me. My daughter is very fond of you, even to some degree dependent. She was . . . frightened by your disappearance. She hasn't shared her experience with us. I'm not sure she's capable of that, but she has talked with you."

Mulder nodded.

"Then you know what I'm talking about. We don't want her hurt any more."

"No sir, neither do I."

Her father smiled then and nodded. They both turned as Dana joined them in the foyer. "You two going out?"

Dana smiled at him, "Yes. Don't worry; I'll call if we're going to be late." She kissed her father's cheek, then took Mulder's hand.

He seated her in the car, then got in himself and buckled his seatbelt. Before he started the car he turned to her. "Are you okay?"

"I am now. I was, I was a little shaken when you disappeared."

He nodded, "I'm sorry about that."

"Is it something you can talk about?"

"Not here, let's go . . . have you eaten?"

She shook her head.

"Okay, what are you in the mood for?" He kept his voice light. He was good at keeping his emotions under wraps after all these years.

Her brow furrowed and she tugged his right hand from the steering wheel. Well, maybe not as good as he thought, but then there had never been anyone like her in his life.

"What about your place, we could order a pizza."

"Uh, no. I know a place." He saw the fleeting hurt in her eyes, but attempted to steel himself from it.

He drove to a diner he'd been to many times. It wasn't crowded; it never was. He escorted her inside and took the back booth, away from everyone else. After the waitress took their order and left the table she took his hand, forcing him to meet her eyes.

"Mulder, what's wrong?"

"I should have called you, before I left." He responded.

She nodded. "I wish you had."

He looked away for a moment. "I talked with the guys. Frohike . . . Frohike let me have it."

She smiled a little at that. "He's very protective of me."

"Yeah, he is." He fell silent then and her worry grew. "He said you were . . . upset."

She nodded. "They were very reassuring, and I got some good news after I talked to them."

"Yeah? What?" Anything to change the subject. He was in no hurry to leave her, since it was the last time.

"My old supervisor called. Becky contacted him and he asked me to come in."

"Did you?" Maybe if her real life could get back to normal she'd be okay.

"Yes. He was very nice, happy to see me. We talked about what it would take to get me back up to speed. He offered to let me work, as an assistant, until I can get recertified. I wouldn't be able to do autopsies on my own, but I could get experience, work my way back."

"That's great. Sounds like things are falling into place for you."

That didn't sound like him. What was wrong? Why were they here instead of at his place? Okay, sex wasn't the only thing between them, she felt a connection to this man, a . . . a rightness that transcended any other relationship she had ever had. Something was bothering him and she needed to know what it was. She needed to help him like he had helped her.

"That's, uh, that's what I wanted to talk to you about. Your life." He studied her hand where she held his.

"My life?"

"I think it's great that you're going back to your career, catching up with your friends."

"Mulder, what - " Her chest felt tight. She hesitated, then decided to take the plunge, "Your trip, was it about your sister?"

"Dana, I - "

She blinked at that. He always called her 'Red'. "You're upset. With me? Are you on a case or, or is it because of what I told you about Samantha?"

Before he could answer, the waitress brought their meal. Dana wanted to trip her as she left the table, but that would only have delayed the woman. Mulder seemed to be focused on the food.

"Mulder, please."

He put his burger down, "I've . . . Red I've made some decisions."

"That sounds . . . ominous."

"I'm sorry, I don't mean to be mysterious."

"Well you're pretty good at it." She tried to smile, but her fear was growing.

"Spooky." He shrugged.

"Mulder, please, talk to me."

He sighed. "You don't want to eat?"

She shoved the food away and he looked down, then pushed his own food to the side.

"Red, I want you to have a life, a normal life. You know, job, friends. I want you to be able to forget what happened to you. I think if I were out of the picture that would be easier for you." He looked away as her eyes widened. "I'm going to be leaving DC."

"What do you mean you're leaving? You're just going away? What the hell does that mean?" Her voice shook slightly on that last word.

"I've been with the Bureau for years. I'm not doing good work, I'm not fulfilled. All I've wanted to do, the reason I joined the damned Bureau, was to find Samantha. I want to focus on that full time. I'm going to go away, see if I can be there when they finally decide to return her. I . . . Red, I can't do this any more. I don't even want to. If I can keep the government from taking these people . . . take them somewhere safe until they can remember - "

"You want to just go off on your own and hope you stumble across a . . . an event like when I was . . . " Her voice trailed off at the look in his eyes.

"Yes. That exactly, but I don't plan to stumble across sites. The guys are studying the phenomena."

"You want to go off alone. Without . . . without me."

"You'll be better off."

"Better . . . And you get to decide that? I get no say?"

"Red - "

"If you're leaving, maybe you should call me Dana." She saw the pain in his eyes but her own pain was just as deep this time. When he didn't speak she turned away, there was no reason to let him see her cry. If he wanted to leave her . . . She stood up from the booth and turned toward the front of the diner. She didn't see him reach out to stop her, or see him let his arm drop back to the table.


"Mulder, are you really sure about this?" Byers asked one more time.

"What's not to be sure about? Samantha could be returned." He looked away from the expressions on their faces. They knew him, almost as well as she did. He didn't want them to see his pain. He had to leave her; He didn't know what they knew, what they understood, but these guys would keep an eye on her. Maybe, maybe with him out of the way 'they' would leave Red alone. She could have a life, a family. He opened his mouth, then closed it again. The thought of her with her own family had taken his breath away.

After a moment, Byers sighed, "Okay, we can set up the funds, but you're going to need a base. And if you're able to get more than one person at a time, you're going to need help."

"I've bought a van. Can you help me outfit it so that I can handle - " Mulder started.

"Mulder, you're still going to need help. What if some of them are injured?" Frohike shot back.

"They aren't. The bruises fade in a few hours and they're in the best shape of their lives. A nice little side effect."

"You're going to need help. You cannot go off alone and do this Mulder. You're not invincible." Frohike wasn't going to let this go.

"I proved that last time, didn't I?" Mulder tried to divert the man.

"Is that what this is about? You weren't able to save the ones - "

"That's right, I wasn't able to save them, any of them. I haven't forgotten."

"Or forgiven yourself, Mulder." Byers looked over at him.

Mulder turned his back on him. "I need to pick up the van. It should be ready." He started toward the door.

"Are you really going to leave her?" Frohike cut right to heart of it. Mulder's step faltered, then he continued. The sooner he got away from here, the sooner he could start learning to live without her.


He sighed at the knock on the door. There was no one he wanted to see tonight, at least no one that would show up. He'd cut that last tie with her. He closed his eyes at the pain even the thought caused. The knocking grew more insistent. Shit. He rose and headed for the door, pulling it open, ready to tell whoever it was exactly where to go.

He wasn't expecting Bill.

"You want to tell me what's going on?"

"Excuse me?" He demurred. Bill?

"You're leaving her. She's devastated and I'm here to find out what the hell you think you're doing."

"Bill, I - "

Bill lifted the six pack he was carrying. "Let me in and then start talking. I'm not leaving until you do. You never explained what happened to her or how you found her. Get comfortable."

"Bill . . . "

Bill walked around him and headed to the couch. The large man made himself at home and opened his first beer.

"I can't - " Mulder didn't follow him.

"Yeah, you can and you will. What happened to my sister?"

Mulder sighed, okay he wasn't going to be part of this family, but he had enjoyed knowing this man. He had even seemed to have his respect for a little while. It was going to be hard to lose that, but at least then Bill wouldn't be bothering him anymore. And he certainly wouldn't want him anywhere near his sister.

He joined Bill on the couch and picked up his own bottle.


Bill just stared at him as he finally wound down. Mulder glanced over at the coffee table, anything to avoid that look. The pizza lay, half eaten and totally forgotten in the box. The second six-pack, delivered with the pizza had gotten more attention. He knew Bill was on his sixth beer. Hell, he was his fourth, very nearly a personal best.

"You really believe it. You honestly believe aliens from outer space took my sister, and yours."

Mulder sighed, "Yeah, I do."

Bill rose abruptly and Mulder wondered if he should offer to shake hands. Instead of heading toward the door, however, Bill moved toward the bathroom. Not a bad idea Mulder realized. Bill didn't speak as they passed each other when Mulder replaced him in the toilet.

Mulder stopped in surprise when he returned to the main room. Bill was still there, back in his same seat, but the empty bottles were gone as well as the pizza box. Mulder quietly resumed his seat at the other end of the couch.

"Do you have any proof?"

"Hard, physical evidence? No. Maybe if I'd taken your sister to a doctor, gotten samples, trace evidence I could have. Hell, maybe that's one of the reasons I was out there in the first place, but . . . Bill she was completely traumatized. A lot worse than when you saw her that night. I couldn't do it to her. I couldn't cause her any more pain. I know what I've seen, what I saw that night, but proof . . . no."

"Couldn't cause her any more pain. What do you think you're doing now?"

Mulder winced, "It won't take long for a woman like her to find someone else, someone right for her."

"She thinks that's you."

"It's not. I could get her taken again or, or killed."

"Killed? What are you talking about?" Bill leaned forward him now. The beers in his system didn't seem to have affected him at all.

"They've watching her because of me. They know that I would try to help her get to her memories."

"Is this why they call you Spooky?"

Not a question he had expected, but he shook his head with a wry smile. "The nickname came before. I suppose having the X-Files helped it along."

"So why do they call you that?"

Mulder took a breath and got comfortable. "They recruited me to be a profiler. With my degree in psychology, they wanted me to try to get inside the minds of murderers, rapists, terrorists, all their bad guys. Turns out I'm good at it. I saw connections others didn't, I made what they called leaps in logic. The things I saw, they were so obvious to me, and they turned out to be right most of the time. That's when they started calling me Spooky."

"So it was a compliment."

Mulder shrugged, "Maybe, it never felt that way."

"The two beers left are yours." Bill pointed toward the coffee table.

"I'll share."

Bill nodded and picked up one of the two remaining beers, then leaned back. "Tara doesn't want me to re-up."

Mulder blinked at the change in subject. "She wants you to leave the Navy?"

"She didn't put it that way, but she said she wasn't sure how she felt about a husband who was gone for months out of the year. I don't know if it's a deal breaker, but I got to thinking about Mom. She did have a lot of time alone and responsibility for all of us with Dad gone. He missed a lot of our growing up."

Mulder kept quiet. He had no advice to give. His father had missed a lot too, without the excuse of a military career.

"I'll have twenty years in. I could retire, get a pension and still be young enough for another career. I just don't know what I'd do."

"Twenty years? You're, what 38?" Mulder did the quick calculation.

"Will be. Kind of late to get married and start a family, so I want to do it right."

Mulder nodded.

"What are you going to do?" Bill leaned back and took another swig from his bottle.

Oh. Nice segue way. "I'm not completely sure. I want to find these other returnees before the government does. Maybe I can reunite them with their families. The ones . . . the ones that are picked up by the military aren't seen again. They trade one captivity for another. If I could get to them first . . . "

"That's what you tried to do when you were gone last week."

"Yeah."

"It didn't work." Bill reminded him unnecessarily.

"I wasn't prepared. I've bought a van. Some friends of mine are outfitting it. I'll do better next time."

"Alone?" Bill asked quietly.

"What would you suggest?" Bill looked away. "Would you want your sister out there somewhere with a loon that watches for lights in the sky and then picks up people from the dirt and hides them? I'm going underground, Bill."

"She's not 'Red' anymore." Bill said sadly. "She's 'Dana, the closed off' again. She didn't have time to get past Daniel, but this is how she acted. She pulled back from everything."

"I thought. . . ."

"Oh she gets up every morning, she goes to work. My sister won't admit to weakness when she's awake."

"What does that mean?"

"Nightmares. She won't talk about them. Mom told me. She calls out for you."

God, a knife in the gut would be less painful. Mulder looked away. "She'll get over me." He gave a flat chuckle. "Everyone does."

"You want to explain that?"

"No." Mulder shook his head.

"How will you live? I don't imagine it's going to be lucrative. Rewards?"

"No. Money's not a problem."

"Money's always a problem. Why, you rich?" Bill blinked as the man looked down. "Are you?"

"Well, I'm okay." Bill waited, "uh, my grandmother and my father had a, a falling out. She decided to skip him in the will. I had a scholarship to the university and a fellowship at Oxford, but I didn't have to work. I could concentrate on my studies."

"So you could go a few months without working?"

"A few years, actually."

Bill nodded, but didn't continue that line of questioning. That wasn't really his business. If Mulder could look after his sister financially that was between them.

Mulder sat quietly. If Bill had further questions, he'd answer them.

Bill sighed, "Well, you did what I asked. You explained . . . everything, I guess. I can't tell you how to handle this, but," the man shrugged, "I can see you're hurting as bad as she is. There ought to be a solution. You're supposed to be a bright guy. Why don't you study on it?" At that Bill rose, taking the last swig of beer. "Where's your phone?"

"Uh, there." Mulder pointed.

"I need a cab. I'll wait downstairs."

Mulder nodded, the man had no reason to hang out with him any longer.


Returnees 14/?

Frohike let himself into the morgue, carefully not looking around. The other doctor looked up first, "Uh, you're not allowed in here, uh, sir."

Dana looked up, "Frohike? Is something wrong? Is he - " Frohike managed not to smile. Her first reaction was concern.

"He's hurting. Can we talk?"

She looked down at the body, "Give me ten minutes. Wait in the coffee room."

Frohike glanced down at the table she stood behind, then nodded. It was closer to twenty minutes, but she joined him drying her hands. "What's wrong?"

He looked her over more closely as she wadded up the towel and tossed it. She seemed . . . less alive somehow, as though the light in her had been dimmed. Even her hair seemed less red. "He's not okay. He wouldn't leave you if he was."

"He's an adult. If he doesn't want to be with - "

"He does. You know he does. He just thinks you'd be better off without him."

"Better off? What are you talking about?" She shook her head.

"Can we go somewhere?" Frohike looked around, other people were coming in and out of the room.

Dana sighed, "Yes, I'm off duty, but I don't know what good it will do. If he's decided . . . "

Frohike took her arm. He'd seen the tears that formed in her eyes even though none had escaped. "Come on." He led her to his car and opened the door.

He drove her to the arboretum and parked. She wouldn't look at him. "Dana, why do you think he's leaving?"

"To get away from me." She answered immediately. "I told him his sister was working with the . . . with them and he can't be around me any more."

"That's bullshit."

Dana looked over at him startled, then back down at her hands, but kept silent.

"Dana, he's afraid for you and of you. Mulder hasn't shared a lot about his relationships with us. I can tell you from what we have heard that they've been dismal. Mulder seems to have a talent for attracting women that use him."

She looked over at him again, "I don't understand."

"I know, you'd think a guy that looks like him would at least be as successful with the ladies as me, but he's been . . . I don't know, hurt." He moved toward the bench. She followed, needing to hear more.

"Who hurt him?"

Frohike shrugged. "Like I said, he doesn't share. I can tell you that he hasn't been in a real relationship since we've known him. Whatever he had with Diana never, it never got deep. They were never a couple."

"But before her?"

"Whoever she was, or they were, he won't talk about them. It's like, it's like he's afraid to try again. I can tell you, you got to him. He was a totally different person when you came to him. Hell, Dana, he was happy."

"Happy? That's why he decided to run away."

"He's not running away."

"What would you call it?" She met his eyes then.

"He's gotten it in his head that you're not safe with him around. He says they're watching him and because of him, you."

"Who would be watching him and why?" She asked.

"Haven't the two of you ever talked about his work? You know he thinks the government knows about the aliens. He thinks they were behind Samantha's abduction because of his father."

"What? What are you talking about?"

Frohike stared at her then, "You really don't know?"

"No. I mean, I know he thinks that his sister and I were taken by them, and I know I saw the woman in the picture. But his father? The government? I don't, he never said anything about that."

"Get comfortable Dana. I have a story to tell you."


"He's leaving me to save me? He's turning his life upside down and leaving his home - "

"I don't think Mulder thinks of DC as home. I don't think he has a home. He does see his mother occasionally, but he and his father have been estranged since before we met him. He was only in the Bureau to look for Samantha. Even I know he never fit in there. Have you seen him when he's profiling?"

"I talked to him when he had that case in Chicago." Her eyes were far away, remembering his voice.

"It wipes him out. He doesn't come out of it for days. And each time it seems to be a little worse. That time, the Chicago case, wasn't as bad. I didn't realize until just now why. He talked to you, during the case."

"Yes, he called every night."

Frohike nodded, "That makes sense. That's why he was better. He had you."

"No. When he got home he was, something was wrong. Then I made it worse by telling him about Samantha."

"Telling him about Samantha was the right thing to do. Maybe what was wrong was the case. I told you - "

"No, something else was wrong. He had sounded fine on the phone, happy to be back. But when I got to his place, the door was unlocked and he was, he was completely distant. He didn't even know I was there until I touched him."

"So something happened before you got there. Did you see anyone? Hear anything?"

She shook her head, "I don't know. I didn't think about it."

"Are you in love with him?"

"Yes." She didn't even hesitate.

"Well he loves you too, but since he's never been in love before, he doesn't know how to handle it. He's being noble, trying to protect you. I don't know, you really may be in danger because of all this, but it looks like you're both dying from lack of each other. What's more dangerous than that?"


She paused outside of his door. She hadn't seen him since she'd walked out of the diner. The courage she had felt when talking to Frohike had developed a slow leak.

Being with him was the only thing that mattered. If what Frohike had said was true . . .

He opened the door at her knock, but he was stunned speechless at the sight of her. She took in the sight of him. It looked like he'd had as little sleep as she'd had, but without the benefit of makeup to disguise the fact.

She looked around the apartment. There were boxes stacked against the wall, most of them already sealed and labeled. "Going somewhere?"

"What are you doing here?" He knew he sounded harsh, but the sight of her was like a wrecking ball in his carefully constructed wall of detachment.

"Do you want to leave me?" She looked him directly in the eye. He fought the urge to pull her against him.

"I told you - " Damn how could he send her away again?

"It's what you didn't tell me that's important."

"What are you talking about?"

"You think I'm safer with you gone."

"Who have you been talking to?"

"Frohike."

"I'm gonna kill that little troll."

"Please don't. If you really do leave me, he's the man I'll lean on."

Mulder's eyes widened and his hand grasped her arm involuntarily. "You're kidding."

She shook her head. "At least he's been honest with me. He told me about your work, the full story - your father, the collaboration."

"Shit. You don't need - "

"I do need. I need to know everything. I need to make some decisions on my own. Not having the facts could be dangerous."

"And having the facts could be fatal! Damn it Red, Dana - " He threw up his hands and moved away from her. "You can't know this stuff. It's too dangerous."

"You know it."

"I don't matter, you do!"

Her lips parted then and she followed him across the room. Her hand on his back forced him to turn, to face her. The tears brimming in her eyes almost brought him to his knees. He closed his eyes, forcing steel into his spine.

"Mulder."

He reluctantly looked at her.

"Mulder, I told Daniel something just before Frohike threw him out - "

"Frohike?" He interrupted.

She nodded. "I'll tell you about it some day. What I told Daniel was that I wanted to live my life, my way. Control was taken from me once. Not again. I want to be with you and I believe you want to be with me."

She moved closer to the man. A breeze could barely pass between them, but they didn't touch. She waited.

"What . . . what if I can't keep you safe?"

"What if you can?"

He blinked at that, it was obviously a concept he hadn't explored.

"Diana did this, didn't she? She put the idea in your head."

"Red - "

"That woman has lied about so many things. Why did you decide to believe this?"

"Because you're too important."

"And she saw that." Dana responded immediately. "Mulder, she despised me on sight. She saw the connection between us instantly. When she walked into that diner she knew, long before you did."

He seemed a little stung by that comment she noted, but she didn't smile. "When did you know . . . " He realized what he was asking too late to retract it.

"When you put your jacket around me to cover me that night. I knew it then, it's the only reason I let you open it the next morning to look at me. I looked up into those beautiful eyes of yours and I knew I was where I belonged, wherever I was."

His lips moved, but it was a moment before he could speak. "I . . . I have beautiful eyes?"

Her lips curled into a smile then, "Yes and I want to wake up seeing every day for the rest of my life."

He gaped at her then, "you love me?"

"I love you. I'm in love with you. Your danger is my danger."

He sank into the desk chair, speechless. Her eyes lightened, he definitely wasn't repulsed by her.

"Mulder, if it's safer away from here, if we have to go underground, let's do it. But together. I need you and whether or not you can admit it, you need me too. I can help you with any returnees we find. I know what they've experienced. I can be an asset to you. Let me help you Mulder, let me come with you." She was quiet then waiting, the rest of her courage seeping away at his continued silence.

His eyes had not left her face. He swallowed twice, then finally managed to speak. "You . . . you're in love with me?"

Her startled laugh was half sob and she moved closer, standing between his legs and pulling his head to her breast. "For a Ph.D. in psych, you're pretty dumb Mulder."

"I . . . I wasn't studying women." He asked.

Her smile grew, "that's not a bad thing to know about you Mulder."

His cheeks colored at that. She had no idea how little he knew or understood about women, but this woman, this woman he wanted to know. He wanted to spend his life knowing her. Maybe he could admit that now.

Her hand came up and touched his cheek. That broke his paralysis and he stood, taking her into his arms.

When she finally took a breath, she leaned back slightly. "I know you're the psychologist, but I had to do a residency in Psychiatry. I think we need to do some work on your issues."

After a moment, he gave a slight nod. She saw that he glanced toward the couch and bit down on a smile. "Well, I need to go."

"Go?" His look was incredulous then.

"Well, if I'm going to leave town, I need to talk to Mom and Ahab."

He grimaced. "Your parents. They must hate me now."

"No, Mulder they don't hate you. Bill talked to them."

"Bill?" His mind ran through what that could mean. "What, what did he say to them?"

"I don't know, I wasn't invited."

"I need to come with you." He said determinedly.

"Mulder, you don't have to."

"If I'm going to take their daughter away from them again, I need to face them."


He followed her home, purposely not allowing himself to think beyond the drive. He parked behind her and they walked to the door hand in hand. Her father stepped into the foyer at the sound of the door.

"Mulder, it's good to see you." They shook hands.

"Thank you sir. I wasn't sure I'd be welcome." Mulder glanced over as her mother joined them.

"Of course you're welcome." William smiled slightly. "All couples have rough periods."

Couples? The man still considered him a decent companion for his daughter? Hadn't she said that Bill had talked to them?

Maggie motioned for everyone to move to the living room. Mulder sat beside Dana on the couch.

"Ahab, we've talked and, and worked out some things."

William looked at Mulder, who cleared his throat. "I will be leaving town and, and Red, Dana, has . . . seems to want to come with me." He glanced down at his redhead with something like awe.

William had to look away for a moment and coughed slightly. After a deep breath he looked back, "I see. You'll be leaving soon?"

"Friday."

"Friday? This Friday?" Maggie spoke up immediately.

"Yes ma'am. I, we need to get settled before . . . I can't really . . . " He glanced at Dana.

"There are reasons, Mom. It has to do with how I was rescued."

"It's what Bill talked about?" William asked quietly.

"I'm not sure what he told you, but the short answer is yes. I wish I could tell you more."

"Are you going to get married?" Maggie spoke from the other side of them.

"Mom! We haven't - "

"Starbuck," her father interrupted, "it's a legitimate question. If you're going off with this man, we want to know both of you are committed to each other."

Mulder nodded, "He's right Red. I . . . I leave my shoes in the middle of the floor and, and I never remember to put the cap back on the toothpaste, and lots of other things, but . . . but if you'd consider . . . "

William could see his daughter's face from where he sat and had to look away again, blinking his eyes.

"Sir, uh, of course we'd want your blessing." Mulder remembered to look up at man.

William glanced over at Maggie. Her nod was imperceptible to anyone else, but they had been married nearly forty years. He could read her from across the ocean. He'd seen the beginnings of the same thing between these two.

"You have it, son."

Mulder's mouth fell open at the ease of the whole process. Maggie met his eyes then, "You aren't used to getting what you want."

"Uh, no ma'am. I . . . I've quit asking, because it just never happened."

He felt Red slip her small hand into his and when he looked back down at her, saw her quickly dash a tear from her eye. "Well Mulder, that stops now."

He nodded slowly, still processing that this woman loved him, wanted to be with him and . . . and her family wasn't driving him off with crosses and fire.

"You won't be able to be married here." Maggie spoke with regret, it wasn't a question.

"No. It wouldn't be . . . we need to be very discreet. But I promise you I'll do everything in my power to make your daughter happy and keep her safe."

"I don't doubt that Mulder." William spoke with a small smile.

Mulder looked down for an instant, then met the man's eyes. A deep communication passed between them, and Dana shivered slightly.

"Can you tell us where you'll be living?" Maggie asked.

Mulder glanced at Dana, "No, not now. But I have some friends that are helping me to set up a place."

"Friends? That sweet Mr. Frohike?"

Mulder blinked at Maggie, "You know Frohike?"

"Oh yes, I met him when he came over here. He was a tremendous help to Dana that day. I could tell that she was shaken, but he was so charming and supportive of her." Maggie smiled at some memory.

"Frohike." After a moment he looked at Dana again, "You and I need to talk."

She grinned, "Okay and then we start working on your insecurity issues, okay?"

"Yes ma'am." He looked at her with a sparkle growing in his eyes.

Maggie looked over at William, "I suppose we can use the money we're saving for a nice rehearsal dinner for Bill and Tara."

"Bill told you . . . " Dana glanced at her mother.

"No." Maggie said dryly, "but he didn't need to."

Mulder actually chuckled at that, truly relaxing for the first time since she'd walked into his apartment.

"Well, we have things to do. Dana, come help me get some dessert and coffee. We have lists to make. We'll go shopping tomorrow for a dress for you to be married in. Even if you end up in Las Vegas, I want you to have a nice dress."

Dana's lips parted in surprise, then she smiled over at Mulder, "Elvis?"

"I think we can do better than that." He watched the two women leave the room and turned back to her father. "You're serious, you're really accepting me into the family?"

"I saw what you were willing to sacrifice for her."

"Sacrifice?" Mulder asked, puzzled.

"Your own happiness. A father needs to see that. She's my baby girl, Mulder. If I didn't trust you, you wouldn't be sitting here right now."

William watched the younger man's back straighten and his shoulders level. This man had been through things, it was obvious he had suffered, but Dana would look after him and there was no doubt in his mind that he would look after Dana.


Returnees - Epilogue

Dana smiled gently as the man's eyes fluttered open. "You're safe. Just relax. You're with friends now." The man's breathing became less frenzied as he looked into her eyes. Her hand came to rest lightly on his shoulder.

After a moment she looked up. "How are her vitals?"

"Heading toward normal. Her heart rate is much better." Tara kept her fingers on the woman's wrist.

"Good. Do you see the guys?" Dana didn't want to leave the man's side until he was a little more relaxed.

Tara looked out the back door of the van. "They're coming." She caught Bill's signal. "That's the last. I need to get up front."

"Okay, I've got these. As soon as the door closes, get moving. We can keep this last one safe until he's strapped in."

Tara smiled and moved to the front of the vehicle.

In the two years they'd been doing this, they had rescued eighteen returnees. Not an incredibly huge number, but satisfying. The first time out they had only gotten two, a man and a woman. Now those two, Jeremy and Angie, were part of the team, choosing to stay and help rather than be returned to their old lives.

It was understandable in Angie's case. Her recovered memories were not much better than her experiences - abusive father, even more abusive husband. It had taken Dana a little while to understand Jeremy's motives, but Mulder had finally pointed out that the man was in love with his fellow returnee. Since his only family was a much older half brother, it made sense.

Now the couple lived on the farm that Mulder had purchased. Jeremy was a great mechanic and under his loving care, Angie had blossomed. They were a big help when new returnees were brought in and maintained discreet contact with them all.

The returnees stayed until their memories returned, and for as long as they wanted afterward. With the help of the guys, their identities were waiting for them within days of their return and Mulder was using his psychology degree for the first time with positive results.

But Bill had been the best helper in all of their operations. He'd been there with them for all except one and had led his own rescue when there had been a second group too soon for Mulder and Dana to leave their newest group and go themselves. He had the most experience, and was the only person Mulder trusted to do this on his own. This was Tara's second trip with them and her calm disposition was already a help with these frightened individuals.

Dana watched her husband move quickly toward them. Even his posture was different now. He had seemed confident, in control, when she had met him. Now she knew that the faade had been shallow. Their time together had shown her what true confidence gave the man. He was totally secure in her love for him and he had blossomed with it. He smiled easily now and was playful, especially when they were alone.

There had been little discussion about their former relationships. He no longer felt jealousy and her work with the other abductees had strengthened her and that along with his love, had made her feel whole again.

They had not been bothered by the government, but still used extreme caution in all of their dealings. Frohike accepted nothing less where his Dana was concerned, and Byers and Langly seemed to be in total agreement. They too had seen the changes in their friend and mentioned them to her on more than one occasion.

That brought a memory and a smile to her face.


They were still getting settled into their new home, adjusting to living with each other. He didn't leave his shoes in the middle of the floor anymore and they were working on that toothpaste thing. Mulder had called her into the room they had set up as an office. "You have an email from Frohike marked personal."

"I do?" Her smile widened.

His attempt to pretend to smile didn't work. "Well, I'll let you - "

Before he could finish the statement, she had settled herself in his lap and was reaching for the keyboard. A real smile began to grow then as he ignored the email and concentrated on her profile as she read. When he saw her eyes widen in surprise, he glanced at the screen, then back at her. Was she upset?

He saw that her smile had grown into a full fledged grin. "Frohike's still looking after me." She looked down into Mulder's eyes, which darkened at her words.

"Who's Kristi?" It was all he had taken the time to read in the email.

Dana laughed then, "I've not met her. Apparently she's Daniel's latest conquest. According to this, she's filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Daniel, after receiving a list of former students he's 'mentored'. The women on the list have been very accommodating. He's taken a leave of absence and Mildred has filed for a divorce which promises to be damn messy."

"You won't be called." He stated it, but she heard the question.

"No, my name has mysteriously not made the list she received."

"And I'm not supposed to be jealous of Frohike for doing this for you, right?" He looked adorable with that puppy dog expression on his face. She leaned in and kissed the tip of his nose.

"Correct, I left town with you. I even, as I recall, married you, didn't I?"

"Yes ma'am." He was grinning by that time.

He had been noticeably less jealous after that. And when he had received his own private email from Byers, had called her in immediately.

"You need to see this." He pointed to the screen, his face carefully blank.

"What's wrong?" She knew him, knew his body language now, he was upset.

He just pointed to the screen and moved back a little. She took the seat and read the message quickly.

<<Hi, hope all is well. Thought you should know that the information regarding that person was sent and received. There was some reaction at first but it was swiftly swept away. Apparently she has some very powerful protection. We know the information did cause questions to be asked before the silence was imposed. Let us know if you want us to try again. Frohike says to tell Dana he's still waiting for her if she comes to her senses.>>

"Mulder?" She looked up at him.

He hadn't taken his eyes from her face. "Yeah?"

"Diana, right?" He nodded. "Powerful protection from what? What did you do Mulder?"

"I . . . I wanted to see how insulated she was. I made sure that her new superiors were aware of her . . . trustworthiness. It sounds like they were upset until they were shut up."

She nodded slowly. "We need to remain cautious, but we're doing the right thing Mulder."

"Who would be that powerful? How did she get in that position?"

Dana's eyebrow rose and he stopped. "You don't really want me to answer that do you?"

"Uh, no, thanks." He looked embarrassed at that.

She rose and moved to him, letting her arms twine around his waist. "Should I be jealous?"

"No!" He looked down at her, completely startled that she could even ask such a question until he saw the twinkle in her eyes. "Not funny, Red."

She shrugged, "You do it. Let's forget her, don't bother to try to bring her down. If she does have that kind of protection, we're better off keeping a low profile." She was silent for a moment, "I can't help but wonder who the man with the cigarettes is." She said it softly and Mulder nodded. Then she straightened her spine. "Hopefully we'll never have to know Mulder."

"Right, we'll just do our thing and to hell with the rest of the world." He looked into her eyes.

"What?"

"I love you." He said it softly, wonderingly.

"I know." She smiled, "and the best part is, I love you too."


The disoriented man beside her saw the smile, and the depth of it seemed to relax him even further. Her hand came to rest lightly on his shoulder again.

Byers, Frohike and Langly had fine-tuned their study of the atmospheric signals that came before a drop, even to the point of duplicating them on occasion and broadcasting them. The military had taken the bait every time, and it had slowed their response when so many false alarms had occurred. That had come in handy, as had multiple locations on a single night.

Samantha had not been returned. With Angie's help, they now had drawings of all four of the silent nurturers, as Dana referred to them in her mind. The fact that every single returnee recognized these four and no others, disturbed Dana on some level, but thus far it had not been discussed. Mulder was not ready, and might never be ready, to give up on the idea of Samantha returning to him, but Dana was no longer as optimistic. Maybe only one ship was used for all abductees, though it seemed unlikely in her mind.

It had been a little unnerving to know that the smoking man and Diana had also been 'seen' by several of the other abductees. Their sketches were also in the file. The guys had done an exhaustive search for the smoking man, but to date had been unsuccessful.

Dana moved aside as Bill and Mulder loaded the last two returnees into the van. They had never gotten four before and the van was more than a little crowded. Bill hurried to the front to take over driving. Tara already had the motor started, as Mulder finished buckling the third one down. The fourth he would hold. Red got the last belt and she calmly acknowledged that fact without argument. His total wonder when he discovered that not only was she carrying his child, she wanted to, still brought tears to her eyes, and had sealed away whatever doubts might have lingered in his mind regarding her commitment to him. Her hand came up to caress her slightly rounded belly and he took in the gesture, not able to hide the smile the movement caused him.

They were where they needed to be, and they were together. That was all that mattered.

Author's notes: First, I want to thank everyone for sticking with me on yet another WIP. I'm sure the ending won't please everyone, but I can't commit myself to another 27 or so chapters. I don't know if I'll ever revisit this universe, but I know where to find it if I do.

Many many thanks to Marianne for the incredibly quick turn around and to Marybeth and Char for pointing the way more than once.

Now, on to other stories.

D


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