"Truckin'"

by FatCat Donnilee

TITLE:      TRUCKIN'
AUTHOR:     FATCAT & DONNILEE
E-MAIL:     FatCat926@msn.com / donnilee@snet.net
RATING:     NC-17

SPOILERS: Pilot, Pine Bluff Variant, Millennium, Closure, Talitha Cumi, 3, Triangle, Per Manum, Tooms, Momento Mori, Milagro, First Person Shooter.

DISCLAIMER: Sometimes the urge just hits you take a ROAD TRIP! Oh, you mean the story? The characters aren't ours unfortunately. Frankly, I think we do better with them than their owners. But alas, they belong to their creator, Chris Carter, Ten Thirteen Productions and Fox Broadcasting. We're both poor as church mice. Don't sue.

SUMMARY: Mulder and Scully go undercover as an over the road, married driving team to break up a hijacking ring.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is FatCat's and my first attempt at writing as a team. We had great fun! Hope you enjoy the spewing of our combined imaginations. She wrote Scully, I wrote Mulder and away we went.

THANKS: To our beta reader extraordinaire, Fran Hartman for doing her usual bang up job. When she's not looking, we call her "grammar nazi." Affectionately, of course!

DEDICATION: I think this has to be dedicated to Mimic117, who caterwauled the longest and loudest for the completion of this fic. And I mean that in the nicest way, darling! This one's for you!

PART 1 (PG)
FBI HEADQUARTERS
HOOVER BUILDING
THIRD FLOOR - A.D. SKINNER'S OFFICE
3:00 PM - THURSDAY

"Come in, Agents. Have a seat." A.D. Skinner gestured toward his conference table. I exchanged a glance with Mulder before we moved as one to take seats opposite Skinner and the two unidentified men.

"Agents Dana Scully and Fox Mulder. These gentlemen are Mr. Franklin Thomas and Mr. Dennis McMahon of the Morehead Insurance Company." Skinner made short work of the introductions.

"Mr. Thomas and Mr. McMahon have been investigating a number of hijackings and murders that have occurred involving a trucking company covered by Morehead."

"Excuse me, Sir, but exactly what does that have to do with Agent Mulder and me, or the FBI for that matter?" I asked politely before Mulder could insult everyone present asking the same question in that insolent, scathing way of his.

"The Director has approved the investigation into these incidents because the victims have been transported across state lines before being killed, and because the cargos that have been hijacked have all been federal property."

Again I exchanged glances with Mulder.

"Isn't that handled by the Department of Transportation, Sir?" he asked.

"Normally, Agent Mulder, that would be the usual agency to handle this case, but there are extenuating circumstances that exclude pursuit of the investigation through the DOT. Mr. Thomas, if you would," Skinner indicated the man on his left.

"Agents, I have been in charge of this investigation for several months. It has come to my attention during this time that there are possible links to the DOT and several other governmental agencies; links that seem to indicate a large number of federal employees are involved in these crimes." He looked from one agent to the other, trying to make sure they understood the gravity and scope of this investigation.

"Those are serious charges, Mr. Thomas," I said. "Do you have the kind of proof you will need to bring this operation down?"

Mr. McMahon broke in with, "No, and that's where you two come in."

"What the Director wants is an undercover operation, using FBI personnel. When the task force asked for a few of our best teams to be considered for the job, your names were mentioned by the Director himself," Skinner interjected.

"That's very flattering, Sir, but we're not a trained part of the undercover task force. Mulder and I have only gone undercover a few times; once with near disastrous results," I shot back.

Mulder interjected, "The director probably just wants us off the XFiles."

"We're aware of your lack of undercover training, Agent Mulder, but you and Agent Scully have a partnership that is known to be out of the ordinary," Thomas said. "Your solve rate is statistical proof of that."

Skinner added, "You are close and work well together. You both know that agents are closer with their partner than their spouse sometimes, and that's especially evident with you two. I don't have to tell you that your partnership is nearly legendary in the Bureau. And yes, your solve rate has a lot do with you being selected by the Director. He may not know you personally, but he knows the numbers, and he knows your solve rate, even if he's not always impressed with your methods."

"Just what kind of operation are you looking to run, Mr. Thomas?" I asked, secretly pleased at Skinner's praise as well as slightly uncomfortable with the comments about being so close. I was getting a bad feeling about this whole conversation.

Skinner looked at us for a moment and then said, "This will be a deep-cover operation. You will not be able to contact your families or friends. You will be given a cover story for your absence. You will not be able to surface until the hijacking ring has been completely eliminated, or heaven forbid, your cover is blown."

Mulder and I exchanged glances again.

"What..." I cleared my throat. "What would our cover be?"

Skinner picked up the conversation at this point, "You will be working as an over-the-road driving team for one of Morehead's clients, Global-Tech Express."

My eyebrow shot toward my hairline. "With all due respect, sir, this is ludicrous. Neither Agent Mulder nor I have ever driven a semi and now you expect us to pass ourselves off as professional truck drivers?"

Skinner held back the smile that threatened to crack his face. "Agent Mulder? Would you like to handle this?"

Mulder turned to face me, squirming in his chair.

"Scully, I do have truck driving experience. The summer before I went to Oxford, I worked at a logging camp in Maine. I wasn't a lumber jack. I was actually the cook's help until one of the regular drivers broke his arm unloading logs at the paper mill. They sent me to school and I drove for them for quite a while."

"So you learned to drive a semi?" I was incredulous.

"Yeah, I learned," he smirked.

XXXXXXXXXX

"By the end of summer I was the top driver. Not needing much sleep gave me an edge on the other guys. Oh, and by the way, if you want to sound like a truck driver, call it a 'big rig'. No selfrespecting truck driver ever says 'semi'. They say 'rig' or 'big rig', or maybe 'big truck.'"

"Thanks for the vocabulary lesson," she said sarcastically, unable to keep her annoyance out of her voice. "That's all well and good, but what about me? I don't know how to drive a ... big rig. I don't have my Class A driver's license and neither do you anymore, for that matter. What would be my role in this operation?"

She sounded as if she definitely wasn't going to enjoy this. Knowing Scully as I do, I could almost see the dread in her eyes as she got a mental picture of herself in a short, pink waitress uniform.

"Well, Agent Scully..." Mr. Thomas began.

I interrupted, "Scully, you can be my 'better half' and take care of all the paperwork, etc." I began to grin and added, "I'm sure the idea of you doing all the paperwork appeals to you immensely. You know, finding ways to weasel out of filling out expense reports and case reports on concluded X-Files is my specialty. Just think of it, you can have complete control of the paper trail from day one."

"Why don't I like the way you said that, Mulder?" she growled. I knew she felt like she was being ganged up on. I'd accepted this easily and it began to bother her. Suspicion of the true meaning of 'better half' began to dawn on her. As soon as it hit me what they were proposing, I liked the idea of this assignment even more.

"Just what is a 'better half', Mulder?" she glared at me.

Skinner interjected, "You'd be posing as man and wife, Agent Scully."

That was it. Her jaw dropped. "That's preposterous!" she nearly shouted. I didn't miss the two insurance investigators' smirks over her indignation.

Scully was not amused. She turned to give them her death stare, making it clear that she was anything but amused. Scully in full chill mode made their mirth disappear immediately. That however, made me smile softly at her. "It wouldn't be so bad, Scully."

In a calm voice, she asked, "Mulder, do you know how small those sleepers must be?" She made a sound of disgust with her tongue.

I frowned. Before I could respond, Mr. Thomas said, "We had anticipated an objection on those grounds, Agent Scully, and we've arranged for you to have one of our newest trucks with the largest sleeper compartment available. That's an optional feature we don't usually indulge in. The bed is nearly a double bed. You normally won't be sleeping at the same time anyway. Even though it is close quarters, A.D. Skinner has assured us that it should be adequate for two professionals such as you and Agent Mulder."

"What about bunk beds?" I asked.

"I can look into that," McMahon replied.

Thomas continued. "It comes with a small refrigerator, microwave, stereo, headphones, sizeable clothing compartments and a small sink with a vanity mirror."

"What? No TV?" I grinned at him.

"Of course, I forgot to mention the television-vcr-dvd combination mounted in the sleeping area," Thomas assured me.

"Lucky me," Scully muttered.

"Hey, I was only kidding." I was impressed.

Skinner was regarding me thoughtfully. "We've also consulted with a driving school in Somers, CT. We can send you there for a private crash course for your Class A license. Mulder will probably do most of the driving."

"I don't know, Sir," Scully said.

"Agent Scully, I know it sounds daunting, but the only real reason for you to have your license is in case of emergency."

McMahon again contributed to the conversation, "DOT regulations are a lot stricter than when you drove, Agent Mulder. Long haul truckers are no longer allowed to drive for twenty-fours straight like in the old days."

"What are the rules now?" I asked.

"I have a whole list of them here," he said as he slid a file across the table towards me.

I put my hand on it but didn't open it. "Summarize for me," I requested.

McMahon nodded. "Well, drivers are cut off at ten hours. After that, they have to take an eight hour break. A lone driver will often drive for five, sleep for four, drive five, sleep four. This enables him to make better time than shutting down for an entire eight hours and allows him to take advantage of the low traffic times on the highways."

"The dead of night was usually best," I commented.

Scully was glaring at us again. I knew it seemed as if we had completely skipped over her objections.

"That's still true. However, when you have a team, they usually drive straight through; eight hour shifts, alternating drivers. One drives, one sleeps and then they switch. In your case, if you felt the need to do most of the driving, you could drive like a lone driver, or you could just fudge the books to make it look like Agent Scully took over when she didn't. Because of the delicate nature of the operation, we are willing to bend the rules here a little and take a chance on circumventing the DOT regulations. We want these people caught."

I looked at Scully who was still frowning fiercely. "Scully, the backing up, docking, and parking are the hard parts and I could always do those. Driving on the open highway is easy. As long as you learn to shift properly, and I've every confidence you can do that, you wouldn't have a problem. I've seen some of these new trucks. They're fabulous."

"It's still a truck," Scully said under her breath.

Thomas added, "They are. Not like the old days when you needed muscle. Power steering, power brakes, and air ride are all standard on our trucks. Oh, and I almost forgot, adjustable seats."

"So the little women can drive?" she asked sarcastically.

"Agent Scully ..." Skinner said softly, his voice a warning growl. She frowned heavily, embarrassed at the subtle reprimand. This sort of attitude and objections were usually coming from me. She knew Skinner was surprised that she was protesting so much.

Thomas answered her as if she hadn't been hostile. "Not at all. It cuts down on fatigue for the drivers. The less physical it is, the more alert they remain. Cuts down on accidents. Air ride seats are great not only for fatigue, but it cuts down on back and kidney problems that used to be a chronic health issue for a lot of old time drivers. All that vibrating beats up the body after a few years."

She looked down, suddenly ashamed of her outburst. It wasn't like her to be so defensive. I could tell she needed to get a grip and think this out after we left the meeting.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Thomas. I didn't mean to sound nasty," she said quietly.

"Not a problem. You have a right to have all your questions answered and I'd be happy to do that. If I can't, I'll find someone who can. I'm not a trucker myself, although I used to be before I went to work for Morehead. However, I've had to familiarize myself with all aspects of the industry in this line of work and keep up with all the changes in laws. They vary from state to state as well, concerning permits and such, which frankly, is a pain in the ass," he ended, his lips curling into an exasperated smile.

She looked at him and then turned to Skinner again. "Sir, aren't there partners more qualified than Mulder and I?" It was her last effort.

He frowned. "Not really. Mulder has the background, even if it was a while ago, so he will have the easiest time relearning. Plus, you two are close, one of our best teams. If anyone can pull off acting like a married couple, it's you. You don't have to smooch for the public, Agent Scully, just work as a team ... which is what you do best." He said quietly, "You two are best friends."

Skinner's remark shocked her into saying a curt, "So what?"

Mr. Thomas answered for him with a question, "How do most old, married couples act?"

I answered him, "Like best friends."

Thomas smiled broadly. "Exactly. You two can pull it off because you do know each other so well. Most people in the industry are uncomplicated folk, but they aren't stupid. And you'd be surprised at how
well they read people. They see a couple that looks uncomfortable with each other, doesn't know anything about each other on a personal level ... well, they aren't going to buy it."

McMahon added, "Even same sex teams are close. It's a tight environment to live in, for sure. I won't lie to you about that. But that's exactly why we need a couple of agents that can stand being around each other that much. Plus, in some of the other male/female agent teams, one or the other is married and their spouses would never. . . consent to let them go on the road with their opposite-sex work partners."

She looked at her lap, seeing that her arguments were being ditched neatly, one by one. She sighed loudly, "I don't like that I won't be able to contact my family. What if there was an emergency? For that matter, what about my financial obligations?"

Skinner said, "Kimberly will personally take care of paying all your bills. You can make arrangements with her tomorrow. And in case of a family emergency, you may give them my direct line number here and my personal home number when you inform them of your 'assignment'. If anything happens, we can pull you off the road immediately."

"How will you find us?" she asked.

Thomas said, "All the trucks are equipped with a computer with a satellite link over which you receive your routing instructions."

"Satellites?" she asked.

"Yes, we track our trucks wherever they go. We can find you in a heartbeat if a call comes in that you're needed or there is an emergency. We can locate you with no problem and send a message over the satellite."

"Wow," I said. "Times have changed for sure."

Thomas smiled. "All for the better, mostly. I can't say that I enjoy all of the regulations placed on the industry but a large number of them are beneficial to the drivers and the industry. Most changes deal with safety for the drivers and the public. The rest deal with protecting the companies from legalities."

"People can be stupid near big trucks," I said, easily sliding back into the lingo.

"Yes, they can. They don't understand how powerful the vehicle is. They cut in front of them not realizing that a fully loaded tractor trailer, going fifty-five miles an hour, can take nearly a quarter mile to come to a complete stop."

Scully's eyes widened at this piece of information.

I replied, "And it doesn't matter that the four wheeler was at fault most times."

"No, because the other party IS usually the one that gets hurt and 'YOU' are the professional driver," McMahon agreed with me.

"So you get bagged with the responsibility," I replied.

"Exactly. As a professional, you're supposed to be better than the average driver ... drive defensively ... take evasive actions ... follow the rules of the road, know your truck and your load and drive accordingly."

"What would we be hauling?" I asked.

Thomas said, "It would vary. Really, that would be up to the trucking company. I have requested that you not have to pull any dual trailers or haul any hazardous materials. Other than that, it could be anything. You would actually be doing the job for real. Some of your loads might involve supplies for the military, computers for the government, metal for the ship building yards. It could be anything. But since the hijackers are targeting government loads, you'd be hauling almost exclusively government facility loads."

I nodded, nonplussed by this. I said, "Trailers are easier than the flat beds used for logging. If I could flatbed a logger, I'm sure I can get the hang of a trailer."

"They are bigger than they used to be," he warned.

"Forty-three and forty-eight footers used to be the standard," I commented.

"We have fifty-three foot trailers now. That's the largest and probably what you would be driving most of the time. You'll be hauling heavy loads."

"Which means stopping at weigh stations throughout the country," Scully chimed in.

"Exactly, and checking them out while you're there, seeing if you spot any suspicious activity by the DOT employees, anyone hassling you unnecessarily."

"I imagine the paperwork is monstrous," she sighed.

"Yes, unfortunately, you have to keep careful logs of your time driving, your distances, etc. Your average speeds are calculated from that so the companies can detect anyone racing on the roads out there. They know exactly how long it should take you to get from point A to point B going the speed limit. If you make it in half the time, there's a problem. Most of the trucks have governors on them anyway."

"Governors?" she asked.

"Devices that don't allow the truck to go over 65 miles an hour," Mr. Franklin
supplied.

"Don't be a cowboy, in other words," I joked.

"Right. But they give you plenty of time usually. It's rare with the government that there is a rush job. You usually have a couple DAYS wiggle room to account for any mechanical problems or detours, etc. So you may actually find yourself with down time in some interesting places."

"See that, Scully?" I teased. "You don't need to join the Army to see the world. Just become a long-haul truck driver."

I smiled gently at her in spite of her misgivings. I was trying to lighten the mood and make her feel better about it. I actually felt excited
about this assignment. Of course, I have no family to worry about. I was instantly stabbed with a dart of guilt for thinking that way. Lord knows, I have been responsible for enough pain in her life, and the lives of
her family members. I knew she wouldn't trade places with me for the world. She loved her family and I knew she couldn't imagine what it was like to the be the last one in your immediate family. I hoped she'd never have to find out, never have to know that kind of loneliness. Quietly, a wave of affection stole over me for my partner. We were close, best friends. I knew she trusted me like I trusted her, but why did this assignment make her so nervous?

She gazed up at me and sighed again, turning to Skinner. "We're not getting out of this, are we, Sir?" she asked, realizing that her arguments never stood a chance from the beginning.

He shook his head slowly. "Afraid not, Agent Scully, unless there are some extenuating circumstances."

"What about the X-Files?" Scully asked.

"We do have other agents who could be trusted to handle a case or two if something urgent comes up. But I don't anticipate anything that can't be set aside until you return." Skinner was trying to assure her that they would be back on the X-Files when we returned.

"What will our cover story be to our families and others?" she asked.

"That we're sending you out of the country to work with Interpol on a classified basis," Skinner answered right away.

Scully swallowed and nodded.

Skinner wrapped up the meeting. "We'll meet again tomorrow to go over details, such as contacting the trucking company, who your contacts will be, reporting, etc. We'll meet here at 8:00 AM. We could be here all day. I have a representative from the trucking company coming in to talk with you. Then, you'll be leaving Sunday night and flying into Bradley International Airport in Hartford, CT. You start school Monday morning."

"Oh, goody," she said, seemingly unable to help this last bit of sarcasm. It wasn't like Scully not to be able to control herself, or act in a professional manner.

The men chuckled and they all stood. Mr. Thomas said, "Agent Scully?"

"Yes?"

"I know you're not ... happy about this, but you are our last hope, the FBI I mean, the undercover operation. We've been at this for months ... I've lost a couple of good friends to these guys . . . we don't want more lives lost ... and we have no solid leads." He paused, "We need you."

She nodded. I wondered again why she was so reluctant and being so contrary about this. This was what we signed on for. We were Special Agents of the FBI. And if I could do this, then so could she. This wasn't about whether she could fit in or drive a rig. I knew that she could learn anything if she put her mind to it. I think I'd been on the X-files too long... even my partner's thoughts were becoming a mystery to solve.

I had a feeling I knew exactly what this was about. The challenge of playing at being married again was making Scully remember how difficult it had been during our case at the Falls of Arcadia.

Being assigned to play house with Scully brought up feelings that I kept carefully locked away most of the time. Close quarters with her would be difficult at best, but I had kept my feelings under wraps for several years and I felt confident that I would be able to handle this assignment. Then again, it would certainly be a break in routine for us and maybe just what we needed. We were getting stale and cranky running over the same old ground. Maybe it would be good for us to do something different, remember what it used to be like to be 'normal agents'.

Scully smiled at Thomas and McMahon. "I'm sorry. I was just taken by surprise. I'll get used to the idea."

"We heard you always give your best, Agents."

"Thank you. We'll talk tomorrow," I said as Scully nodded at them.

Skinner said, "Agents, take off for the day, discuss what you need to. When you come in tomorrow morning, be prepared to give Kimberly all your financial information so that she can arrange to pay your bills while you're gone. We'll begin at 8:00 AM, sharp."

"You got it, Chief," I spouted, saluting him crisply. The investigators laughed, Skinner scowled and Scully grinned.

"Come on, wise guy, we have plans to make," Scully said as she walked out the door.

XXXXXXXXXX

PART 2 (PG)
DANA SCULLY'S APARTMENT
GEORGETOWN
7:14 PM - THURSDAY

"Mom, I know. We've rarely been assigned outside the U.S. before so I am excited. It's not really a case. We're going as advisors, helping set up an X-Files department at Interpol." I was pacing while talking to my mother. I hated to lie to her, but I had my orders.

"Mom, we will not be in danger.... Just because I can't get calls does not mean that I am working on something dangerous." I was running out of lies. "No, Mulder and I are going there to set up a new and highly controversial department for Interpol. They asked for us, they just don't want to let anyone know we're there so they've slapped a high level classification on it," I sighed. "They want the whole world to know what we're doing. I'll try to call or at least send you a postcard or two." I sighed with relief. She was finally buying it. "We are NOT going to be living it up on the government dime in Europe. We'll be working, I assure you. There's nothing to tell. Mulder is my partner, that's it." I sighed again. "I'm not having this conversation with you again, Mom. You're starting to sound like Charlie now.

I listened as my mother continued to speak her mind, trying to soothe her and keep her from becoming suspicious. Finally I interjected, "Listen Mom, I have a lot to do before our meeting tomorrow. I'll see you on Saturday for lunch. I'll bring over my plants then." I smiled as she replied and then said, "I love you too, Mom."

I hated to lie to her, but I knew it was important. I knew she would understand the need for secrecy if I could have explained it to her. After all, I was sure that my father had not given her the entire truth about some of the missions that he was ordered on during his years at sea, and that she knew it. But I still felt bad about lying.

I walked back into my room and stared at my clothes. 'What does one wear to drive an 18 wheeler 24/7?' I asked myself. I looked at my rack of Donna Karan and Armani suits and knew what I wasn't going to pack. But I knew that if I didn't get them out of the closet and Mom came over to check things out, they would reveal my duplicity.

I decided to store them while we were gone. My mother would never think to go to Mulder's apartment. I picked up my cell phone and hit speed dial number one. On the third ring Mulder answered.

[Mulder.]

"Mulder, it's me."

[Hey Scully, what's up?]

"Mulder, I need to bring over some of my better suits and shoes to your apartment..." I began.

Mulder's quick intake of breath and teasing, [Are you asking to move in with me, Scully?] surprised me.

"Mulder, if I did, you would run like a scalded dog!" I laughed.

[Don't be so sure, Scully,] he said quietly.

I smiled as said, "Mulder, I need to make sure my mother doesn't know we're not in Europe when she checks out my apartment while we're gone. She's a master at putting two and two together after raising four navy brats."

[Okay. Sure, but I'm not home right now. Could we do it tomorrow night?] Mulder said. [I just took my fish over to the guys and I was doing a little shopping.]

"That's fine, Mulder. I just wanted to make sure it would be okay." I heard a knock at my door and said, "Someone's here, hold on just a minute."

I walked to the door and peeked out. Mulder stood there with a huge grin on his face. I shook my head and opened the door. He had his phone in one hand and a large bag in another.

"Bye, Scully," he teased as he closed the phone.

I sighed and smiled at him. "Come on in, Mulder." I switched off my phone and put it back on the charger.

Mulder walked into the living room and sat on the couch. "You got any tea, Scully? Shopping works up a thirst for me."

XXXXXXXXXX

Scully always has tea on hand. If she doesn't have freshly made iced tea in the fridge, she keeps a supply of my favorite brand of canned iced tea. She grabbed two and came back to the living room.

"Thanks, Scully," I gulped half the can down right away.

"Boy, you weren't kidding about shopping making you thirsty, were you?" she teased.

"Well, I put it off as long as I can then I have to do a lot. It's not my favorite thing, you know?"

"I couldn't tell by the way you dress, Mulder," she continued to tease.

"Is that a remark about my ties, Scully? I'll have you know that I get them from the best on-line shopping source available," I said with a straight face. "Ties R Us, a subsidiary of McDonald's and Toys R Us."

Her peal of laughter over my ridiculous remark made me smile back at her. I loved it when I could make her laugh. She didn't do it nearly enough to suit me. "You really are beautiful when you laugh, Scully," I said softly, before I could stop myself.

Her laughter faded to a gentle smile and a blush. "Thank you, Mulder. That's the nicest compliment I've had in ages."

I didn't know what to say to that so I changed the subject. "I... umm... did a little shopping for you too, Scully," For some reason I couldn't look at her right now.

"Mulder...." she said warily.

"I knew you probably didn't know what to wear so I drove out and cased the truck stop on I66. I didn't really see too many women like you there Scully, but there were one or two, so I used them as a guide for shopping."

"Mulder," she growled. "If the women you saw were the ones going from truck to truck and knocking on the door, you're in big trouble."

"Scully," I feigned surprise. "Would I do that to you? By the way, the proper term for those ladies of the evening is lot lizards."

"I don't know, Mulder. If I base my response on the quality level of your video collection, I think you may be wiser to leave now while you have both kneecaps." Her harsh words were spoiled by the smile that wiped the frown off her face.

"I'll need those for this assignment, Scully. No physical abuse allowed," I teased back.

"So, you really bought me clothes, Mulder?"

"Uh, yeah. I know you're not happy about this assignment, so you don't need to be spending money on a new wardrobe on top of it. I know you only own two pairs of jeans and that's not nearly enough. And the ones you do own are too 'dressy' for what we need here," I prattled on, wondering why I was babbling.

"I appreciate it, Mulder," she said quietly. "Let's see what you got."

I opened the bag and pulled out three pairs of stone washed jeans, two blue and one black, and four chamois shirts, tan, black, red and green, and laid them on the coffee table. Then I pulled out matching turtlenecks to go under them.

She stood with her mouth slightly open. "Mulder, that's too much."

"Too late now, Scully. Try one of each on and make sure they fit. I got them all the same size."

"How did you know my size?"

"Do you really want me to answer that?" I teased.

"Uh, I guess not," she replied, reaching for the green chamois, turtleneck and the black jeans. She picked them up and held them to her chest. "Thanks, Mulder. I'll be right back."

She disappeared into the bedroom and I finished my iced tea while I waited.

She reemerged wearing the soft, tight turtleneck with the chamois shirt over it, buttoned up only half way so it framed the generous breasts that rode high on her chest. The jeans fit her perfectly, except that they were a little long, but she wasn't wearing any shoes.

She smiled. "Can I pass for a trucker chick?" she asked, clearly amused with her new look.

"A pair of boots and some work gloves and you're golden, Scully," I said, nodding my head and smiling.

She beamed me a smile and twirled around. I chuckled and stood up, walking over to her and placing my hands on her shoulders. She looked up at me and I said, "It's going to be all right, Scully. I promise. I know it won't be easy, but when is anything we ever do easy?"

She swallowed hard and her smile faded. "We're going to need some ground rules, Mulder."

I nodded, having expected this. "I know, whatever you want, Scully."

She must have detected the note of resignation in my voice. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing."

"Mulder, come on."

I turned from her and returned to the couch, sitting down. She came over and sat on the opposite end of the couch. "Do you have cowboy boots or work boots, Scully?"

"I have hiking boots and I can pick up some work boots. Don't change the subject, Mulder. Nice try."

I smiled sadly. "Can't blame me for trying," I quipped.

She just stared at me, giving me the look that said I wasn't getting out of this. "Spill, Mulder."

I sighed deeply. "Nothing, really. I just expected you to have a whole laundry list of rules and regulations that I'll have to follow. It's not really a surprise."

She frowned now. "You expected it, why?"

I smiled softly at her now. "Because I know you, Scully."

She seemed to contemplate this statement for a minute trying to figure if there was hidden meaning in it. Then she said, "I don't know if I'm happy you know me so well, or bothered that I'm so predictable."

I gazed at her for a moment, seeing an opportunity to talk to her. We rarely had conversations like this. Normally, we could retreat into our neutral corners if we got on each other's nerves. We weren't going to be able to do that on this assignment. If this was going to work, then we needed to talk more.

"Look, Scully. You trust me, right?"

"Of course I do," she quickly replied.

"And I trust you. But we don't talk enough, Scully. I mean, we know a lot about each other, but we're going to be working in close quarters, closer than ever before, and we won't be able to retreat to separate hotel rooms or our respective apartments when we piss each other off."

"And you're sure we'll piss each other off?" she asked wryly.

"Don't we always?" I asked, with another note of resignation.

She frowned again. "What are you saying?"

"I'm saying we're going to need to talk more than we normally do. If we do something that bothers the other one, we need to talk about it before it festers into a boil and we end up fighting over it. We're not going to be able to afford that on this assignment."

"I guess you're right."

"Can you do it, Scully?"

"Do what? Talk to you more? Sure."

I shook my head, thinking that she was taking this too easily, not putting enough importance on what I was saying. "Our partnership, our friendship is precious to me, Scully. I don't want to damage it for anything, and certainly not for this assignment. But this will be something completely different for us and we need to be able to communicate ... and not just silently like we usually do. We're going to be pretending we're married ..."

I broke off and swallowed. Being married to Scully was one of those furtive dreams that I squashed into the back of my mind whenever it reared its ugly head. It was one of those fantasies that would bring more pain than pleasure because I knew it would never happen. This assignment was going to be rough on me for that reason. I would be living out that fantasy in one respect.

I was quite certain Scully would approach this with her usual logic and stoicism. She would trudge through, doing what she had to do and concentrating on the case because she would want it over as soon as possible. I, on the other hand, was going to have trouble not paying attention to the roles we were playing. It hit too close to home. So this assignment was a double edged sword.

"Scully ..."

"Why are you shaking your head at me?" she asked, sounding annoyed. "I wouldn't do anything to jeopardize our relationship either."

"Relationship or partnership, Scully?"

She looked confused for a second. Then said, "We're friends, that's a relationship, Mulder. And I meant both, partnership, friendship, whatever you want to call it."

"That's just it, Scully. What would you call it? If someone were to ask, I mean."

She looked confused again. "I'm not sure what you're asking."

"If someone came up to you and asked, 'What's your relationship with Fox Mulder?' What would you say?"

I held her with my gaze and she swallowed hard. "I would say ... he's my partner at work, my friend, my ... confidante. He's my best friend."

I nodded. "Same here, Scully." I looked at my lap, wondering if that was all we'd ever be.

She seemed to sense that I wasn't entirely satisfied with her answer and I wasn't going to give up anything more than she was. She added, "Maybe what's important here is what I 'wouldn't' tell them."

"What's that, Scully?"

She cleared her throat then met my gaze. "That you're the most important person in my life, Mulder. You have to know that."

"No," I whispered. "I didn't know that."

Her eyes widened slightly and one eyebrow went up as if to say, 'How could you not know?' "Well, you are," she said briskly. "I don't know
what I'd do without you, Mulder. I mean that."

She stood up, suddenly fidgety, which wasn't like her at all. I stood too and took her shoulders in my hands again. I was wearing my black boots with the inch and half heel and I towered over her, especially since she wasn't wearing any shoes. Her cute red toenails peeked out from beneath the legs of her jeans. She looked up at me and I said, "Same here, Scully."

She chuffed a breath out and said, "You don't need to say it just because I did."

I placed two fingers under her chin and tipped her face up further. I stared into her eyes and said, "I'm not. You're all I have left, Scully. I'd be lost without you. So no matter what happens on this assignment, please remember that."

She nodded and her hand came up to cup my cheek. I shivered slightly and she smiled. "We'll be okay, Mulder. We always are. I care for you ... so much. I know I don't say it often enough."

I looked hard at her now. "Scully ..."

"Yeah?"

I leaned down and placed a soft kiss on her forehead. I wasn't sure, but I thought she shivered slightly. I smiled, letting her feel my lips move against her forehead. "Mulder?"

I pulled back to look at her face. "I need you to know ..."

Could I say it?

"What Mulder? Tell me."

I met her gaze for a long moment. "I love you, Scully."

She gasped and her mouth opened. I placed two fingers over her soft lips and her mouth closed. "Don't say anything. Just ... know it. Don't forget it. I'd do anything for you ... anything."

I brushed another quick kiss on her forehead and turned on my heel. I strode to the door and yanked it open. I looked over my shoulder and she was staring at me with a stunned expression on her face. I said, "Doesn't mean I won't still be the pain in the ass you're used to, though."

She smiled tremulously at that and I turned and walked out, closing the door behind me with a soft click. I took a deep breath and nearly jogged to my car, needing air and to get away from her before the import of what I'd said sunk in. It had been surprisingly easy to tell her. She knew I loved her, but I knew it would jar her hearing it from me out loud. And I hadn't said I was in love with her, just that I loved her. It gave her an out, a way to interpret it that would be palatable for her. But it needed to be said, and I'd said it. I felt lighter somehow.

I hadn't expected a tearful reciprocation or declaration of undying love from her. I never expected to get that. It wasn't 'Scully's way'. She held her cards very close to the chest. But that didn't mean I had to. I was going to be able to pretend Scully was my wife. I smiled evilly at the thought. Maybe I could get away with a few more touches than normal, a few more liberties. I'd have to be careful, though. If I made her angry, all bets would be off.

'You're a big boy, Mulder. You can handle this,' I said to myself. Too bad I didn't believe it.

XXXXXXXXXX

I stood staring at Mulder's back as he walked out of my apartment. What the hell had he just done? How could he tell me he loved me and leave like that? What did he think I would do if he stayed, shoot him again?

I stalked over to my window and watched him drive away. I stood staring off into the distance, trying to grasp the implications of what he had just said.

'He loves me. He said it again and this time, there were no injuries or drugs to blame. He loves me. He would do anything for me,' I thought. Why didn't his words make me feel better about this assignment?

I sat down on the couch and tried to think this through logically. What exactly was it about this assignment that bothered me? I began to list the positives first.

We would be saving lives. We would be saving the government untold millions of dollars. We would be able to put a stop to corruption in the DOT. We were being recognized by the Director of the FBI as the best qualified team for this job. Okay... the positives were not the problem.

I pulled the afghan down off the back of the sofa and began the list for the negatives.

I'd never been inside a 'big rig', let alone driven one. I didn't feel comfortable in an undercover operation. We were being taken away from the X-Files and somehow I felt that it was a set up. The last time we were undercover as a married couple, our partnership was strained. Mulder just told me he loves me. Mulder didn't tell me he's in love with me.

"Oh, my God!" I said aloud. That was the problem. I just recently accepted that I was 'in love' with Mulder, but he... he just loved me. How would I ever survive being cooped up in the cab of a truck with Mulder for an undetermined length of time without acting on my feelings?

The sound of the phone ringing startled me out of the deep funk I had sunk into. I didn't want to concern my mother if it was her calling back so I sighed and thrust myself up to get it before the machine kicked in.

"Scully."

[Hey, Scully, it's me.]

"Mulder, you can't be home yet," I said automatically.

[No, I'm not. I forgot to tell you while I was there...] he hesitated for a moment. [Shit. Some drivers should be taken off the road!]

"Mulder, are you okay?"

[Yeah, just a near miss.] I could picture him grinning as he spoke.

"What do you need, Mulder? I want to get to bed so that I make sure I'm on time for our meeting tomorrow."

[Scully, I forgot to tell you that I have a theory about the hijackings,] he started.

"Mulder, can't you tell me tomorrow?" I yawned.

[Why don't you wear some of your new clothes to the meeting tomorrow, Scully? I'm going to.]

"Mulder, you know you won't come to the meeting wearing jeans," I laughed.

[You won't know till you get there, will you?]

"Mulder!" I laughed again. It seemed like he always knew when I needed cheering up.

[Scully, have you considered what our undercover names should be?]

"No, I haven't given it any thought at all," I said as I walked into the bathroom and started the water for a bath.

[I have some ideas...] he started.

"Mulder, you always have ideas. That doesn't mean I agree with them," I teased.

[Yeah, well, I was thinking your name could be Jane. That way you could use Calamity Jane as your handle.]

"My what?"

[Your CB handle,] he said.

"Oh, no, we agreed that I could pick the names next time we went under cover. Besides, why ever did you pick Jane?" I was curious about it, but not agreeable to the name.

[If you remember your western history, Calamity Jane was a crack shot, and I thought that really would be an appropriate name for you, partner.]

"Thanks, but I WILL pick out the names this time, Mulder."

[Okay, but let me tell you my theory...]

I sighed, "Mulder, you can tell me your theory tomorrow. Besides, Skinner may have already chosen our names. Who knows, he may have used our real names, and you can use Foxy Loxey as your handle," I couldn't resist.

[Cruel, Dana.]

"Goodnight, Fox."

We both snickered at the same time, "Let's stick with what works, okay, Mulder?"

['Nite Scully.]

Once again we refused to say goodbye.

XXXXXXXXXX

PART 3 (PG-13)
FBI HEADQUARTERS
HOOVER BUILDING
THIRD FLOOR - A.D. SKINNER'S OFFICE
11:00 AM - FRIDAY

I convinced Scully to dress for our roles for our meeting the next day. Skinner's eyebrows rose when we marched in, Scully wearing one of the new outfits I'd purchased for her and me wearing a flannel shirt, jeans and work boots with the laces half undone.

After a quick appraisal, he'd smiled, realizing this move was our acceptance and resignation to the assignment. We weren't going to fight him anymore.

Mr. Ken Casey, Manager of Operations for Global-Tech Trucking, had been talking for over two hours and he was still going.

"You should have some background information on the industry as well. Most truckers keep up with this stuff and it can't hurt to know it. There are approximately 2.3 million trucks on the road in the United States and approximately 3.12 million drivers nationwide. The country boasts around 500,000 trucking companies. Eighty percent of those have twenty or fewer trucks, small independent outfits. Those statistics come from the American Trucking Association, which keeps track of these things. Global-Tech is in the other twenty percent, having a fleet of 100 trucks.

"A lot of people criticize the trucking industry, but never think about what they would do if they had to operate without it. They go into the store and buy all the products, never wondering how they got there."

The guy was obviously passionate about his work, I thought with a smirk. I glanced at Scully and saw she was wearing the same amused look of interest as he rattled on. "And 9.3 billion tons of freight. That's over sixty-four percent of the total U.S. freight in the nation -- is moved by truck. Seventy percent of U.S. communities depend solely on the trucking industry to deliver their goods. Seventy percent, think about that."

The number was impressive. "A new tractor costs between $70,000 and $115,000, depending on the model, not to mention the cost of the trailer."

A low whistle escaped Scully at that little tidbit. He nodded sagely. "Yeah, that's a lot of beans. So losing a truck, just one, to an accident, or in this case, a hijacking, is a major set back for any company, even one as big as Global-Tech. A set back of about $150,000, to be exact. Because not only are these loads being hijacked and unloaded somewhere, the rigs have completely disappeared."

"Couldn't you track them by satellite?" Scully asked.

He made a face. "I wish, but they know about the satellites and always disable them. It's the first thing they do when they hijack a truck. All we know is that the truck has dropped off our radar. We've rushed to the area, and notified police in whatever area the truck was last tracked. Unfortunately, by the time the cops get there, the hijackers are long gone, and so are the rigs. We have no idea where they are storing these loads. The trailers are not turning up later, so they may not even be unloading them, but storing them somewhere in a drop and hook yard or a warehouse and selling them later. Who knows?"

"I have a question for you," Scully asked.

"Shoot," Ken replied, holding up his finger and thumb like a gun and pointing at her, lowering his thumb as though firing.

It took all my effort not to roll my eyes. Scully seemed to take it in stride. "How many women are there in the industry?"

He smiled. "Numbers are going up, ma'am. Among owner/operators, independent truckers, that is, about 12% are female."

"And companies?"

"About 10%."

"Just 10%?"

"Afraid so. It's not a job that attracts most women."

"Why not?"

"If they want to have a family, they simply can't be away from home for long stretches at a time. Not unless they have a house husband to take care of the chicklets."

"Chicklets?" Scully questioned, her scowl telegraphing her displeasure at the derogatory terms he was using. To his credit, he caught on.

"I didn't mean to be insulting, ma'am ..."

"Agent Scully," she reminded him pointedly.

He cleared his throat, "Yes, sorry, Agent Scully. I didn't mean to be insulting, but ... it's true. Most women, IF they have children, want to stay home with them."

"And men don't?"

He sighed. "Some men do, yes, and they end up quitting the job once they start a family. That's why so many truckers are single men. The wives don't generally like their absences either, so they end up quitting to stay home with the wives, or looking for local driving jobs rather than long haul. Most, NOT ALL, but MOST of the women in the industry are one half of a married, driving team. In other words, there are enough women that it won't seem unusual for you to be on the road, especially since you're posing as a married couple."

The rest of meeting went smoothly. We were briefed on the trucks that had been hijacked and the contents of their loads. We went over the files and asked our questions. I think Ken Casey's admiration of Scully grew by the minute once we were into examining the evidence and operating techniques of the hijackers. Her questions were pointed, insightful and she scribbled furiously, making notes and writing questions that needed to be answered. He soon saw that she was not be trifled with and her mind was sharp as a tack. I caught him looking at her with open admiration a few times. It was starting to annoy me, but I reminded myself that we probably wouldn't see him again after today until the case was over.

We were to go to Somers for a one week crash coarse in training, eight hours a day and then we would report to Global-Tech's main hub in Nashville to get our new truck and be briefed on our first set of loads and trips at that time. I had a feeling that by the time this was over, both Scully and I would know more about the trucking industry than we ever cared to know.

Finally, the day was over, and we broke a bit early, at 4:00 PM. Skinner told us to go home and we wasted no time. I drove us straight to Scully's apartment where I helped her load several garment bags full of suits and shoes into the trunk. She cleaned out most of her underwear drawer. I won't even go into how exciting it was for me to handle her silky stockings as I tossed them into a grocery bag. It was quite the adolescent thrill for me. No silk stockings on this trip. Too bad, I thought ruefully. Then again, there was something to be said for Scully in casual clothes. I was wishing I'd bought shells for her rather than turtlenecks by the end of the evening. God, I could be such a pig.

XXXXXXXXXX

Sunday evening saw Mulder and I on a flight to Bradley International Airport.

We were booked into the Sheraton Hotel in Somers near the driving school. Tomorrow was a school day and we decided to get in bed early. But throughout dinner we tossed around our ideas so far. It was nice to fall into the comfortable mode of examining the facts of a case. We threw ideas back and forth. Our conversation from Thursday evening had yet to be discussed. I was just as glad, I thought. Wasn't I?

XXXXXXXXXX

SHERATON HOTEL
MAPLE LEAF RESTAURANT
SOMERS, CT

Sitting across the table from Fox Mulder in a motel coffee shop was not a new experience for me. But for some reason, tonight it felt... strange. Perhaps it was the diamond wedding band on my left hand that skewed my perception of reality.

At first, Mulder and I talked about the case and his theory that connected the hijackings to the Consortium. But as the meal continued and I grew tired, I found myself staring into the sparkling diamonds and zoning out, rehashing memories of the last few days.

Skinner had dismissed us early on Friday, well, early for us. We made arrangements to leave my car in the long-term underground parking area at the Bureau the next day and straightened up the office. Mulder drove me home, since he had picked me up that morning. I needed his help loading up the garment bags of suits and blouses I didn't want my Mother to see while I was gone. He reminded me that if I were actually going to Europe, I would also be taking several pairs of shoes and of course, lingerie and stockings.

What is it about lingerie that makes a grown man respond like he has turned into a Bevis or Butthead clone? I swear I heard him snort and give a dirty little chuckle as he loaded my stockings into a grocery bag for storage. But as heavy as the garment bags were, I wasn't about to reject his help, especially since he would be carrying them upstairs to his apartment alone.

Saturday seemed endless. I pulled several boxes of summer clothes out to choose what I wanted to take to complete my wardrobe. I had the new jeans, shirts and turtlenecks Mulder bought for me, but I wanted a few cooler outfits to wear. I selected a few pairs of shorts, tanks and tee shirts and returned the rest to storage. I would deal with changing over to my summer suits if I got home before the summer was over.

As I did laundry, I cleaned my refrigerator and took out the trash. By the time all that was done, it was time to go to my mother's house and drop off my plants. Thank goodness the weather was mild and Mulder had helped me load them into my car the night before. He was going to meet me at the Hoover building to give me a ride after lunch, but Mom had blindsided me and invited him to lunch with us.

I filled Mulder in on my cover story with Mom on Friday, so I was not worried about what he would say. I was, however, very worried about what Mom would say while she had us both as a captive audience.

I had every reason to worry, as it turned out.

"Fox, have you ever been to Europe?" she started innocently.

I was as interested in Mulder's answer as she was. It surprised me to find out that he had traveled extensively in Europe while going to school at Oxford.

"I really didn't have a good reason to go back to the States during the summer. Mom and Dad had already divorced and I didn't have a home to go back to," Mulder started.

I could see my mother cringe at the life Mulder had led as a young man.

"I was smart enough to save my money during the school year and was able to travel from hostel to hostel during the summer."

"Have you every been to Paris, Fox? I hear it's one of Europe's most romantic cities. Do you think you'll go there on your assignment?"

"We really don't know where we'll wind up until we get there, Mom," I said truthfully. I didn't want her to push either of us into lying to her again.

"Well, if I were one of two young, unmarried people who were treated to a tour of Europe on business, I would make sure there was some pleasure involved as well," she continued innocently.

"Mom! Mulder and I are going on assignment, not vacation." I blushed as I spoke. A quick glance at Mulder confirmed my worst fear. He was enjoying this banter.

"I'm sure we'll have some down time to rest and do a little sight seeing," Mulder agreed.

I glared at him and silently told him to change the subject. For once Mulder did as I asked, and steered the conversation into other family news. After that, I actually enjoyed my lunch. Mom didn't strike again until we were standing outside after unloading the plants from my car.

"Remember, Dana, you can call and ask for anything that you can't find in Europe. I have years of experience in sending care packages. Just please don't ask me to send you condoms like Charlie did."

"Mom..." I began but stopped. Mulder's face was flushed an attractive pink and I realized that he knew she was hinting to both of us.

"I don't think that will be a problem, Mother. We have to go. I'm storing my car at work and Mulder is going to give me a ride home. I still have lots to do before tomorrow afternoon."

My mother took the hint and dropped the subject. She kissed Mulder and bid him a safe and successful trip. He gave her a big hug and a kiss and left us alone to say our goodbyes.

"Mom, I'm going to miss you. I'll get in touch as often as possible. Don't forget, I left A.D. Skinner's card by the phone. If there is an emergency, I'm sure I can be here by the next day."

"Bye, darling. Good luck and for goodness sake, have some fun while you and Fox are in Europe." She teased, "You know, I wouldn't be too upset if you came home married."

I teased back, "Mom, you know the chances of that happening are infinitesimal. I would probably have a better chance of coming home pregnant, and we both know that won't happen." At her raised brow, I
continued, "For two reasons. First, Lourdes is not on our itinerary," I grinned to lighten the conversation.

"Second?" she asked smiling back.

"Second, I would have to have sex before I could conceive. That would mean finding a man between now and then," I couldn't help saying.

"Dana Katherine Scully! What's wrong with the perfectly good man that's going to Europe with you? When will you two come to your senses..." she scolded, and then stopped, realizing that I had suckered her into declaring her real thoughts. "I'll see you when you get back, dear. Try to call when you get there at least." She hugged me tightly. "I love you Dana. Tell Fox I love him, too."

"Love you too, Mom. I'll tell him." I had to kiss her quickly and run down the sidewalk to my car before I started crying. I really hated lying to her.

Mulder beeped the horn and waved as he drove away from Mom's house.

I cried all the way to the Hoover Building. I parked my car and turned the keys into the guard on duty. I found Mulder's car and climbed in. He wasn't there, but I knew he would be back soon. He probably forgot something he wanted to take on the assignment.

He returned in a few minutes and we started back to my place.

"Are you going to be all right, Scully?" he asked a few minutes later.

"Yeah. It just hit me that it could be weeks or months until I see her again," I sniffed as I stared out the side window. I didn't want to start crying again and I especially didn't want Mulder to see my tears.

After a few minutes of companionable silence he said, "Are you ready now to listen to my theory on this case?"

The balance of the ride was taken up by Mulder giving me his opinion of what was going on. I wasn't really listening, and Mulder didn't seem to expect me to reply. I was grateful for his understanding.

I should have realized his non-stop dissertation on his 'theory' was a cover for his fear of what he was going to do next.

We pulled up to my apartment and I got out. I was surprised to see Mulder getting out to go up with me. I had a lot to do before the next day.

He followed me in and sat down on the couch, glancing nervously at me. I began to get suspicious after the third covert glance he gave me.

"Okay, Mulder, what's up?" I said and sat down facing him on the other end of the couch.

"Skinner stopped me when I ran in to the office while we were parking your car," he started. "He gave me our undercover identities and paperwork."

"Mulder, you promised I could pick out our names this time," I said automatically. I really hadn't given it any thought. I just knew I didn't want to be Laura Hale or Laura Petrie.

"Yeah, I tried to tell him that, but he said he already had the papers drawn up."

"Well, what are our names this time?" I sighed.

"You're Dana Tanner and I'm Martin Tanner," he said.

"You're Marty? Marty Tanner?" I couldn't help but grin.

"Yeah, I guess Fox is too distinctive and Mulder would never do as a first name," he smiled back and handed me my papers.

I sorted through them, surprised that there was a Class A driver's license in the group. "Skinner must have pulled some strings to get these before we even attended the driving school."

"Yeah, he wanted to make sure we weren't spotted by a spy at the school." Mulder was not as relieved as I thought he should be. After all, I didn't really put up much of a fuss about my new name. At least we didn't have to remember something new for me and Mulder's new name at least started with an 'M'. It shouldn't be too hard to remember.

"Uh, Scully. I picked this up too."

I looked up at Mulder and saw fear in his eyes. I followed his glance downwards toward his hand. He opened his fist and I gasped. He was holding a diamond band that looked to be just my size. It was exactly what I would pick out for myself. There were three perfect diamonds, channel set with an invisible mounting into the heavy platinum of the band. With a ring like this I would never have to risk losing it by removing it to 'snap on the latex' while doing an autopsy.

It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. It was also scarier than my first glimpse of the fluke man. I knew that this gorgeous ring did not come from the Confiscated Properties Unit.

I reached tentatively to touch it, but when he moved it closer to me, I snatched my hand back as if I were afraid to be burned.

"Don't you like it, Scully?" Mulder asked.

"It's... It's beautiful. Where did you get it?"

"You like it?" he repeated.

"Well, yes, Mulder. What's not to like? It's beautiful." I brought my face down to look at it closely, but held my hands behind my back.

"It won't bite you, you know," he chuckled. He held the ring in his left hand and placed his right hand on my left shoulder. He let his hand slide down my arm until he captured my left hand. He brought it to his lips and kissed the back of my hand.

He squeezed my finger gently and said, "Dana, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?" His voice was teasing, but there was a gleam in his eyes that I had never seen before.

"Oh, Marty, it's so sudden," I tried to joke my way around his suddenly serious words.

His eyes darkened, "Answer me, Scully," he said.

As I gazed into his eyes, I saw the sincerity of his question. This was Mulder asking me, not Marty. I had to wear this ring for the assignment. But I heard the unspoken question. If it was really him asking, what would I say? He wanted to know. He told me he loved me the night before and I was terrified that he hadn't meant it in the same context that I loved him.

I had many doubts and fears but being rejected was one that was laid to rest while I stared into his beautiful eyes. He loved me. He was in love with me. But for right now, our assigned 'marriage' would be as close as we could get to expressing our real feelings aloud.

What else could I do? I said, "Yes, Marty. I would be honored to have you as my husband."

As I spoke I saw his face melt into a soft smile. The look of love in his eyes was clear and I knew that we had just taken another baby step toward an honest to goodness romantic relationship. He slid the ring on my finger and grinned his loopy smile at me as he bent down.

"Can Marty give his wife a kiss?" he asked quietly, playing along with the name swap. "We might need some practice to pull off this married act," he joked. We both knew it was a cover. I didn't answer right away and he sighed, bending down to kiss my cheek.

I turned my face quickly and captured his lips with mine. He wasn't the only one that had suffered from a fear of rejection. I now knew that he was in love with me and I wanted to let him know that I was 'in love' with him too. He grunted softly in surprise but didn't hesitate when our mouths came together.

Our second kiss was everything our first kiss had not been. On New Year's our kiss was gentle and warm and loving, but tentative. This kiss was still gentle, but heat was there, and love, and with only a small stroke of his tongue against my lips, passion took over.

I wrapped my arms around his neck and pulled him closer to me. Our lips kissed. Our tongues dueled, and yes, our breath mingled. Every clich from the hysterical romance novels Melissa used to read became God's truth. It took every particle of strength in my entire body to break the kiss.

When I pulled away from his lips, he groaned. I drew in a deep breath and hugged him. We couldn't take this farther tonight, nor for the next few weeks or months. We had an assignment ahead of us and we needed to complete it before we could explore our personal relationship.

"Mulder, we can't allow our feelings to get in the way of this assignment..." I began.

"Shhhh.... Dana... Scully, I know. I just want to hold you for a moment and then I'll go," he said as his warmth enveloped me and we stood rocking gently back and forth for too few precious moments.

"Kiss me goodnight, Scully. Just once before I leave," he murmured in my ear as he slid his hands up to stroke my hair. Scully now. No more playing. His kiss was so sweet and exciting, all thoughts of letting him go home left my mind.

When he pulled away, I was stunned. "I better get out of here while I still can," he said. He turned around and walked out my door, pausing to lock it before striding down the hall.

I was thankful that he was strong enough to leave, because I knew I didn't have the strength to ask him to go.

I had started a bath and spent the entire time staring at the diamonds in my ring, too stunned to even try to sort out my thoughts. I realized I had forgotten to ask him where the ring came from.

XXXXXXXXXX

That was very much how I still felt as I came back to the present and realized that Mulder was waiting for a response from me. I found myself back in the restaurant again.

"I'm sorry, Mul... Marty. I was zoning out. What did you say?" I decided to be honest.

Mulder chuckled and said, "I said, you must be tired. Are you ready to go back to our room? We start our new career tomorrow morning at 8:00 AM and we need to be rested."

I could feel my face flush in embarrassment. It was only 7:30 PM and Mulder knew anyone who heard us would think we were going back to our room to make love. The fact that we both wanted to do just that but had more or less silently agreed to hold off on a physical relationship until after this assignment was over made it all the more difficult.

I glared at him, but said out loud, "Come on, Stud." I walked away from him without looking back to see if he was following. I knew he was. Several of the men that had been eating near us were giving him male bonding grunts of approval as he moved to follow me.

Tomorrow should prove to be an interesting day.

XXXXXXXXXX

I wondered what was going through her mind as she stared at the ring on her finger. Our little subterfuge in her apartment last night had been a big step forward for us. We'd couched our answers behind the assignment and the names we were given to play, but we'd both known what I was really asking her. I was afraid to put it all out there. I needed to know what she would say if I ever really asked her to marry me. My heart nearly spun out of my chest when she said yes. I'd imagined that I was really asking her and she was really saying yes.

I swallowed harshly, already wanting this assignment to be over. Maybe I could get another kiss good night. It was worth a try. I nudged her out of her trance and said we needed to get some sleep to be fresh for the morning. She'd given me an odd look I couldn't interpret, but then she said, "Come on, Stud."

I'd grinned so hard I thought my face would crack and secretly reveled in the sly looks given to me by the guys sitting at the next table. They were envious, and who could blame them?

XXXXXXXXXXX

PART 4 (NC-17)
HOTEL ROOMS
SOMERS, CT

We made our way upstairs to our rooms. We said our awkward good nights and went into our separate rooms. I undressed, leaving my boxers on and knocked on our connecting doors. She opened it a minute later wearing a baby doll nightie and tap pants. My knees nearly buckled, seeing all that Scully leg.

I just stared at her, sweeping her from head to toe with my eyes. When I reached her face again it was turning a nice shade of pink and I couldn't help the grin that graced my lips. "God, you're hot," I breathed out, nearly under my breath.

She blushed a brighter shade of pink and I took a step toward her. "What do you want, Mulder?" she asked, her voice uncharacteristically shaky.

I let my fingers slide over her cheeks and into her silky hair. She shivered at my touch and I secretly cheered that I could make her react at all. I stared at her for a second.

"What, Mulder?" she asked again, her voice stronger this time.

I whispered, "I want a kiss good night."

"Mulder, we really shouldn't do this. It'll just make it harder ... make the wait harder ..."

I didn't let her finish. "Got to," I mumbled and bent down and covered her mouth with mine. Her lips were warm and soft and she let out a little adorable squeak of surprise as I touched down. I tugged gently on her bottom lip, gripping it between mine.

"Mul ..." she tried to protest and I pressed in, opening her mouth under mine with the force of my kiss.

She moaned gently and I slipped my tongue inside. She was hot and damp inside as I explored her mouth and then teased her tongue with mine. She moaned a little harder and I deepened the kiss again. Unable to resist, I momentarily broke the kiss and slid my arms down her back and cupped her dainty rear end. I could nearly fit her whole cheek in my palm.

"Oh God," she murmured.

Then I pulled her up and toward me, nearly taking her feet off the floor and pressed my now aching shaft into her tummy, kissing her again. My lust was going to take over any minute now, but I couldn't seem to let go. I squeezed her ass cheeks, kneading gently. I tried to kiss her again.

She finally made a token struggle, her hands pushing on my chest and I let her pull her mouth from mine. "Please, Mulder, don't make this hard ..."

I was hard all right -- "Too late." But I took a deep breath to steady myself and slowly let her sink down, her tummy rubbing on my dick as she lowered herself to the floor. I groaned. "Jesus, Scully. What you do to me."

"Go to bed, Mulder," she said abruptly.

I didn't want to leave, but I knew she was right. We couldn't keep doing this. "Sorry," I muttered as I turned around. Her hand landed on my forearm and I stopped, turning back to look at her.

"Nothing to be sorry for, Mulder. I just ... we have to be reasonable about this. This could be so distracting. I think we need to ...keep our distance until this case is over, so we don't ... lose our heads here, you know?"

I swallowed harshly, my dick still throbbing, not responding to her words at all, still feeling the phantom press of her tiny body. "I think it's already too late for that, Scully. I lost my head over you a long time ago."

With that, I turned and walked back into my room, gently closing the door between us. Its soft click sounded like a resounding boom, separating us from one another. I wanted nothing more than to march back in there and toss her on the bed. She was right, but that didn't make it any easier. I honestly didn't know how long I could hold out. It would depend on how long this case lasted. If it lasted more than a few days, and it surely would, I was in big trouble. I'd just have to find a way to convince her that we could handle both. There had to be a way.

My personal thought was that it would relieve the distraction. Waiting was the worst part. Knowing that she was willing to be intimate with me was going to drive me insane - until it happened. Kissing her wouldn't be enough for long, as wonderful as it was. I stripped off my boxers and laid down on the bed, not bothering with the covers.

XXXXXXXXXX NC-17 PORTION XXXXXXXXXXX

I was so hot I might light the damn things on fire. I grasped my cock and began stroking slowly. I licked my palm and stroked again, closing my eyes and imagining her mouth pouting around the head of my shaft. I groaned loudly, not even trying to be quiet.

Let her hear me. Fuck it. Let her hear what she did to me. I reached down with my left hand and cupped my balls, rolling them gently and stroking faster, feeling my orgasm coil at the base of my spine. The backs of my legs began tingling and I wailed as I climaxed, "Ssscccuuulllyyy. Oh God!"

I laid there quivering with aftershocks. I reached for the tissues on the nightstand and then decided to take a quick shower instead. I hopped in, soaped up and rinsed off and crawled back into bed, under the covers this time. I sighed and then smiled. At least I could kiss her now. If I was persistent, I knew I could break her down. Plus, we were supposed to be married, no one would think anything of it once we were on the road. If I could hold out until school was over, and that was just one week, then maybe I could convince her it was silly to wait. It wouldn't blow our cover, that was for sure.

I heard a soft moan from next door and knew that she was doing what I'd just finished doing. It struck me as ridiculous that we were in separate beds relieving our needs separately, needs caused by one another. This was the way it had to be for now. I sighed, closing my eyes and hoping that sleep would come quickly.

It was just so hard to wait. It felt like I'd been waiting for years. I should be grateful and doing cartwheels over the fact that I could kiss her now. But all I could think was, 'I want more'. I loved the woman. Frankly, I thought waiting was stupid. She'd never know I felt that way. And I would wait, not because I agreed with her, but because I respected her feelings.

I heard another soft groan and gritted my teeth. I reached down, surprised at the speed of my reload, and grasped my cock. The soft moans I could hear through the wall made my balls ache. It was going to be a long night.

XXXXXXXXXX END OF NC-17 PORTION XXXXXXXXXX

We parted at our room doors. I had insisted on separate, but connected rooms while we were here at the driving school. It was possible that we were being watched by one or more members of the hijacking group, but I knew for sure that our progress was being monitored by Skinner. It was appropriate for Marty and Dana Tanner to share a room on the road. But for Dana Scully and Fox Mulder the assignment was just beginning, and it was still inappropriate.

Our goodnight was strained. I was beginning to regret letting Mulder know just how I felt about him. This undercover assignment was no more and no less dangerous than the infiltration of the militia group Mulder was assigned to a few years back. These men had killed before and if we weren't focused, we could be next.

I heard him moving around and pictured him stripping down for bed in my mind. I was suddenly wet. How could he do that to me with just a thought?

I changed into my pajamas. The warmer weather called for cooler pajamas and I had brought my favorites for this trip. A baby doll top and tap pants were my sleepwear of choice. I had decided to wear one of Mulder's old tee shirts and sweat shorts on the road. But tonight I felt...sexy and desirable...even if Mulder wasn't going to see me in these. I wanted to hold on to the feeling of being a desirable woman I felt every time I looked into his eyes.

His knock on the connecting door surprised me. I started to pull on my robe but hesitated. Damn him. Two could play at this game. I pulled open the door and forgot how to speak.

He stood there, dressed only in his boxers. His eyes widened and his breathing quickened as he caressed me with his eyes. "God, you're hot," he said. His voice was honey over velvet.

I couldn't stop my blush as I managed to say, "What do you want, Mulder?"

He stroked my cheek with his fingertips and then began to slide those long, sexy fingers through my hair. His smug look of satisfaction helped me regain my voice and I said, "What, Mulder?" with more strength this time.

He growled, "I want a kiss good night."

I began to speak, giving him good, solid reasons why we should not take this any further until after our assignment when he lowered those sexy lips to mine and kissed me senseless. His lips nibbled and sucked mine, and I heard a disgusting girly squeak come from my throat. I couldn't help it. As he deepened the kiss, the hands that had been stroking my face and hair and caressing my neck slid around me and down my body.

One hand encircled my waist then moved down to cup the cheeks of my ass. "Oh God," I murmured. How did he do that? How could he know that I am sensitive on my derriere? It was as if God had given him a roadmap and said, 'Touch her here, touch her here, and here.'

My tap pants were immediately as soaked as my panties had been. If this didn't stop soon I wasn't going to have any clean underwear left.

I moaned harder as his lips deepened the kiss. He pulled me up against his body and I was standing on the precipice of total meltdown. I could feel the heat of his shaft against my stomach as he forcefully pulled me against his body. Oh, Mulder, I want this...I kissed him back and debated about giving in and dragging him back to my bed. I groaned, feeling him squeeze my ass. I felt my insides tighten up and knew I had to stop this now. I wanted to kiss him and touch him and have my way with him for the rest of my life.

That's what I wanted to do, but I knew I couldn't. I had to try one more time to be the voice of reason. I pushed against his chest while still letting my fingers stroke against his golden skin. "Please, Mulder, don't make this hard..."

He let me slide down his body, rubbing his incredible erection down the length of my stomach. What the hell was I thinking? I was so wet, I could smell my arousal. I knew that his control was stretched to the limit.

He mumbled an apology and I tried to smooth things over. I could tell that he wasn't listening as I babbled some rhetoric about why we should wait, why we shouldn't lose our heads now, when his words stopped me cold.

"I think it's already too late for that, Scully. I lost my head over you a long time ago."

He turned and walked back into his room, gently closing the door. I covered my mouth with both hands to keep from calling him back. I could feel the wet heat between my legs and tried to tamp down the throbbing with thoughts of duty and honor and safety.

It was no good. I returned to the bathroom after I felt my juices running down my leg. I needed a shower, but I would wait until morning. I cleaned up quickly and changed into yet another pair of tap pants.

The rough washcloth had taken the edge off the throbbing of my sex, but I knew it was going to be a long time before I could relax enough to go to sleep.

I toyed with the idea of masturbation, but somehow, it didn't sound right tonight. That is, until I heard the soft grunts and groans start from Mulder's room. I could picture him in my mind. Lying in the middle of the bed, naked. His golden skin glowing in the low light coming from the bathroom. The muscles of his abdomen would be working as he stroked his big, strong hands down his own body.

Oh, God, there went another pair of pants. I practically ripped them off me. I had to sleep naked or I would go through every pair of underwear I brought with me. I didn't want to explain why I had to do laundry tomorrow to Mulder.

The small breeze from the room heater flowed over my body and I began to fantasize that it was Mulder's hands and lips and breath on me. I let my hands begin to wander over my body.

The sounds from his room increased and I knew he had taken his thick, hot cock into his hand and was working it towards an orgasm. No, women called them orgasms, what did men usually call them? Did he think of it as coming or as cum? Did he lick his palm to smooth the
friction, or did he spread his pre-cum over his cock? Did he like to play with his balls as he masturbated? Did he like a gentle stroke, pretending that it was me, or was he rough with his strokes, pretending he was pounding into me as he came?

I realized that the sounds were getting harsher and I heard a strangled, "Sssccccuuuulllyyy. Oh God!" And then silence. I could feel my breath coming in short pants and gasps. I tried to calm myself down. This would never do. How was I going to survive until this damn assignment was done?

I heard the shower go on in his bathroom and a visual of him lying on his bed with his ejaculate all over his stomach and chest made me groan. I began to stroke my sex with one hand and my breasts with my other. I let my mind wonder over the way Mulder would make love. Would he be sweet and gentle or would he be a demanding lover? Would he want to mount me and surround me with his essence or would he want to watch me ride him? With every thought I came closer to reaching my orgasm, but was not quite able to reach it before his shower turned off.

XXXXXXXXXX NC-17 PORTION XXXXXXXXXX

I rolled over and buried my face in my pillow. The grunts and groans that I had been subduing poured into the muffling depths of the pillow. I pulled my knees up under me and began to fantasize that Mulder was taking me from behind. My fingers were flying over my clit and I pictured his turgid balls rhythmically striking my clit as his huge cock stroked into me. His hands would be stroking my ass and I would be begging him to 'fuck me harder, Mulder... fuck me...'

Oh, fuck me! My orgasm swept over me and nearly made me faint. I groaned and tried to stifle the sound in my pillow, but the need for air was overwhelming. I moaned as I rolled onto my back again. I was panting hard. My heart was beating out of my chest and I realized that I had the biggest, silliest grin on my face I had ever had.

XXXXXXXXXX END OF NC-17 PORTION XXXXXXXXXX

I was well and truly screwed. Well, not literally, yet, but figuratively. How was I going to survive this case with any sanity? How was I going to be able to protect Mulder's back when all I could think of was getting him on it?

This was going to be a long, hard case. I fell asleep grinning.

XXXXXXXXXXX

SOMERS CLASS A DRIVING SCHOOL
SOMERS, CT

The next day found us sitting behind the wheel of a big rig. God, it had been a long time and I'd forgotten how powerful these things were. I'd also forgotten how empowering it was to handle one of these awesome machines. It made you feel like Hercules.

Scully was surprised at the ease with which she was able to adjust the seats and reach the pedals. Her spatial geometry was even better than mine and she had no problem using the mirrors. She didn't get confused and was able to back up using the mirrors, knowing instinctively which way to turn to cause the mirror image to straighten out.

I know she'd been nervous at first but as the day went on, she relaxed. After driving through her first obstacle course of orange cones and backing into a dock for the first time, she set the brakes and let out a whoop, raising her fists in the air and pumping her arms once in a victory signal.

I was laughing broadly as she climbed out of the cab and started toward me at the edge of the huge paved lot in front of the main building where I'd stood watching her progress. She was intercepted by Dean Blackwell, the instructor. "Excellent work, Dana. Most people don't do this well on their first day."

"Thank you," she replied, grinning up at him and obviously pleased with herself. Morehead Insurance had hired this guy privately from a school in Tennessee. He'd come up here to teach us after the school agreed to let us use their facilities. They didn't have a class scheduled to start for another two weeks. I sauntered over to her as I saw him reach out to put his hand on her shoulder in a gesture of camaraderie.

'Oh, no, we'll be having none of that,' I thought. No one was going to be touching her, except me. I lengthened my stride and arrived just as his hand landed on her shoulder. She was frowning and I knew she didn't like it, but was too polite to say anything at this point.

I slid my right arm around her shoulder and casually knocked his hand off with my left. I glared at him, the alpha male in me coming out big time. He smirked, but upon meeting my eyes, his smile died and he recognized the challenge in mine.

I looked down at Scully and she said, "It's all right, Mu...Marty."

I looked from her to him again and then said softly. "Yeah. Everything will be just fine as long as he keeps his hands to himself." I made no attempt to lower my voice so he couldn't hear. I wanted him to hear.

Then I abruptly changed the subject, "Good job, Honey." She scowled briefly at the endearment and I said, "My turn, I guess."

I hated to leave her there with him while I drove, but there was no choice. I had to concentrate too and worrying about his advances, if indeed that's what they were, would be a big distraction. I knew Scully could take care of herself and didn't need me to protect her, but damn it. I hoped every man we encountered on this assignment wasn't going to drool over her. I hoped they would have more respect for her and me than to openly do that. Because if they didn't, I honestly couldn't say whether I'd be able to hold onto my temper.

Scully touched my forearm as I glared at the instructor. I turned back to her and she whispered, "I'm fine. I can handle this M... Marty."

I bent down so my lips were close to her ear. "He touches you again I want you put his balls in his throat. You understand?"

She threw her head back and laughed and I straightened up, smiling down at her and glancing at him out of the corner of my eye. Her easy laughter was intimate and he probably thought we were making fun of him. He scowled and I didn't give a damn.

He did finally speak up though, "Your turn, Mr. Tanner. Days a wastin'." He turned and walked towards the rig with me.

I nodded, smiling at him. "No hard feelings, man. Sorry about that," I said casually as I could. I didn't need to alienate this guy on the first day of class. He nodded his head in grudging acceptance. "I'm a little sensitive about her," I added, now that we were out of Scully's hearing.

"I didn't mean nothin' by it," he drawled.

"I know." No, I didn't. "Forget it."

He nodded again and I headed for the driver's side of the rig. I jumped in and released the brake. I put it in gear and slowly pulled out of the bay and headed for the other side of the parking lot where the cones were set up. I forced myself to concentrate and took the truck through the obstacle course. At this point, it was only hauling a 38 foot trailer. As the week went on, Dean had said he would increase the size of the trailer. We needed to be hauling a 53 foot trailer by the end of the week.

I went through the course, turned and went back through before docking the truck. I was secretly pleased with myself and grateful that it was all coming back to me so quickly.

XXXXXXXXX

Our first day of school hadn't been the disaster I had foreseen. We were given a few hours of classroom information and study time and then taken right out to the obstacle course after lunch.

I was surprised that I did as well as I did. I guess being a math geek when I was younger finally paid off. The rig, though intimidating upon first approach, was not the horror I thought it would be. The driver's seat was very comfortable and after adjusting everything to fit me just right, I found that my geometry classes were finally being put to use. The same rules of mathematics that had attracted me by their order and scientific basis now transferred to driving a big rig, of all things.

The only glitch in the day was Mulder's run in with Dean Blackwell, our instructor.

I knew it was going to happen the moment we had stepped through the front door of the main building and Dean had introduced himself to us.

He was a man about the size of Mulder, but that's where the comparison stopped. Mulder was a tall man, but he was graceful as a big cat. His incredible intelligence made him sensitive to others, a trait that attracted every woman he met. Unfortunately, it gave the wrong impression to other men.

Dean Blackwell was more like a bull, intelligent, but depending heavily on his strength and size to get him what he wanted in life. I'm sure that there were many women who found his type attractive. I'm not one of them.

He was an excellent teacher. He had been a driver since he was in his teens and started teaching after an accident injured his back badly enough that he was no longer capable of long-haul trucking. He had a feeling for the rig, and was able to verbalize it in a way that made it easy to learn.

He was also a touchie-feelie son-of-a-gun. I am not a person who has ever allowed my personal space to be invaded, that is, until Mulder came along. I didn't mention all the little encroachments to him or to Mulder, at first. A few times he had gotten too close and I had backed him off with a glance.

But towards the end of the day I had just completed the obstacle course and backed the rig and a 38 foot trailer up to the dock. I was pretty proud of myself for doing it on the first try.

I jumped out of the truck and looked for Mulder. He was standing over by the main building and I couldn't resist a victory dance. I raised my fists into the air and gave out a whoop as I walked towards him. He was grinning widely, enjoying my success as much as I was.

Dean approached me from the other side of the rig and congratulated me. He put his hand on my shoulder and gave it a little squeeze. I could see the expression on Mulder's face change from one of happiness to one of danger.

Most men dismiss Mulder as a threat. He is most likely to use his intelligence and his dry sense of humor to defuse a situation. What most people don't know about Mulder is that there is a dark side to his personality. He is a trained agent of the FBI and his understanding of the havoc that violence can wreak on the human body usually keeps him on an even keel. But he is possessive and protective of those he loves. I needed to act fast or Dean Blackwell was going to be of no further use to us.

I frowned at him to let him know that I was aware of his feelings and to back off. He stepped to my side and slid his arm around my shoulders, blatantly pushing Dean's hand away. He glared at him and I sucked in my breath as Dean smirked back at him...that is, until he met Mulder's eyes.

Mulder finally broke the glare and looked down at me. I could see the remnants of his alpha male dominance in his eyes soften as they searched my face.

I whispered, "I'm fine. I can handle this M... Marty." I was relieved when he bent down and placed his lips close to my ear.

"He touches you again I want you to put his balls in his throat. You understand?" He wanted me to use my training to protect myself and his belief in my abilities made me laugh aloud. I changed my mind about the lecture I was planning to give him tonight.

Dean probably thought we were making fun of him, but I didn't care...not even when he scowled.

He and Mulder moved back towards the rig and I could tell they exchanged words, but everything seemed to be back on an even keel.

Maybe this wasn't going to be so bad after all.

XXXXXXXXXX

SOMERS CLASS A DRIVING SCHOOL
SOMERS, CT
TUESDAY AFTERNOON

The next day didn't go as well for Scully. We'd pretty much been in low gear around the parking lot, but today he took us out on the road to drive around the block.

She had a hard time shifting, got frustrated and stalled the truck when she tried to double clutch, bucking the cab and making it whine.

At one point, she pounded the steering wheel as if to make the beast do what she wanted. It was NOT like Scully to lose her cool like this. I was sitting in the sleeper, which was small, and I had to duck to not hit my head. I hoped ours was going to be bigger than this.

Dean sat in the passenger seat as we idled along side the road. "O.K., you can do this," he spoke calmly to her and I had to give him credit. He'd kept his hands to himself today but I'd watched him closely.

"Take a deep breath, let it out slow," he drawled. Christ, his voice was going to put me to sleep. These southerners took an hour to say 'shit.' It was only day two and already I wanted to scream at him, 'Get to the fucking point!' He didn't hurry, no matter what. I surmised that this must be because if they moved like we did, the heat would kill them.

I smiled internally at this thought as he continued to drone.

Scully was listening intently though, having regained her composure. "All riight, now. I'm going to walk you through thiiss, step by step." He sounded like a demented cowboy. "We're gonna take thiiss, realll
slow."

Scully smiled, then bit her lip to prevent herself from laughing at the way he talked. We'd better get used to it. I had a feeling we'd be spending a lot of time in the south and mid-west where most of these hijackings were occurring. That's one of the reasons they wanted us to come here, up north to Connecticut. The hijackers hadn't hit New England yet, so it was safest place for us to learn undetected.

"Now push in the cluuutch," Dean said.

She did. "Hoed it," he said with his peculiar accent, instead of 'hold' it. He glanced at me. "I gotta touch her, Mr. Tanner."

I raised my eyebrows and so did Scully. "How so?" I asked.

"I wanna to put my haand on hers and shift with her. That be awlright?"

I nodded, smiling. Scully gave me the eyebrow, but said nothing. He placed his hand on hers. "Now, push all the way to the left, and gently sliiide that baaby up thare till you feel it catch on that nottch, in there. Feel it?" Scully nodded. "Then you gohead and push it straaiight up." The truck slid into gear. "Goood, now let up slowly on the cluuttch, just like in a caarr." She began lifting off the clutch. "Let her start to rowl, and then press gently on the gaasss, jest feather that puppy."

I was biting the inside of my cheek now. I tuned him out as he continued and the truck began to roll forward.

"Nooowww, the important ppaaart. Listen to the engiine. Hear it? Hear it start to strain? That soouwnd, lit'l higher pitched?"

Scully nodded.

"Now you shiift."

He pulled down on her hand and slid it into second. She gained confidence as we tooled down the road. "Keep going straaight. I'll take ya up through the geears."

Rather than turn back to go around the block, she continued on. The streets were nearly deserted at 10:00 AM and he continued to shift her up until we were tooling along at 45 miles an hour. He had her slow down for a light and shift down and then pull onto the highway. He took her up to 45 and then flipped toggle button on her gear shift to bring us up into the high gears. She sailed along as I suspected, having no trouble with the open highway. We went back into town, his hand still firmly on top of hers and guiding her through the gears as she double clutched and slowed down.

"Hit the cluutch, tap the gas and spin those gears, and slliiiddeee her home," he continued his non-stop commentary as he talked her through double clutching. "Hit that clutch once more and release it slooowww."

We finally made it back to the yard 40 minutes later. Scully slumped in the seat and turned to Dean as he released her hand, glancing at me once with a slightly nervous expression. I smiled at him and at Scully.

"Damn," she muttered, embarrassed that he'd had to coach her through all that.

"Don't be embarrassed, Dana. It's only day two and this a crash course," I reminded her.

Dean nodded, "For sure, buuddy. Norm'ly you'd have a couple of weeks 'fore you went on the rowd."

I said to Dean. "She's used to things coming easy to her. She's very smart."

"I know she is," he said with a firm nod. "But this issn't liike ani'thin' else. Youse got ta get a feeelll for it, smart or nooot."

We both smiled now, unable to help it.

XXXXXXXXXX

The week flew by and somehow we managed to keep our hands off one another. I never missed my good night kiss though. I didn't want her to forget what was waiting for her whenever she was ready. There was no freakin' way I was lasting until the end of the assignment. If I wasn't boffing her inside of a week, I was going to explode. I figured she didn't need to know that, though.

I wish we had another week for Scully to get used to things and for me to brush up, for that matter, but our week ended and we thanked Dean and hopped a flight to Tennessee. First stop ... Nashville.

XXXXXXXXXX
PART 5 (PG-13)
CRICKET MOTEL
NASHVILLE, TN

Nashville is a hole. I never knew that. There are some nice sections, but for the most part, it's a city like any other. Trash and dirt lined the streets. There was corruption, crime and seedy bars. More than the average city, Nashville was filled with little juke joints with low lighting, smoke-filled rooms and stages for amateur musician wannabes to try out their stuff. I was a little surprised at the dilapidated look of many of the buildings and streets. Being such a tourist attraction, I'd expected a better infrastructure and upkeep of the streets and buildings.

Global-Tech had a contract with the Cricket Motel, a no-tell motel downtown with Spartan rooms featuring the TV and chairs bolted to the floor. The mattress was hard and the floors and bathroom were clean. I guess that's about as much as we could hope for. They told us it would look funny if we signed into the Regency or the Sheraton. This was the 'trucker's motel' and that's where we would stay.

We showed up at headquarters and a dispatcher named Cole led us to our rig. He knew nothing of our new identities, only that we were a newly hired driving team. His eyes seemed permanently attached to Scully's ass until I glared him down, too. This was going to be a long assignment.

Scully pulled in a gasp as we climbed into the rig. The sleeper was spacious, the bed folded out into a mattress almost as big as a double bed, but not quite, and was able to fold up into a single bed during travel. There was a small dormitory size fridge and a small sink. Every available corner was a cubby hole to store things. Under the bunk was a large space to store suitcases or larger items. All around the ceiling were hanging cupboards for storage. The dashboard looked like a cockpit of a jet fighter. Even I was impressed.

Cole showed us how to use the satellite, receive, and send messages. This was how dispatch would contact us 99% of the time. He gave us a schedule for truck maintenance and a list of authorized garages throughout the continental US should we experience any mechanical trouble. He droned on through our orientation as I tried to pay attention. Scully took a few notes and it was a good thing, because I missed half of what he said. I was too busy planning where to put things and deciding the best place to store weapons.

I'd contacted the Lone Gunmen and they were meeting us at the hotel tonight with some back up weapons and extra ammunition. We were trying to lure killers and I was going to be prepared. We would be a moving armory by the time I was done. All the weapons were magically registered in our fake names through the miracle of technology ... and some fancy hacking by Langly.

I drove the tractor back to the hotel, explaining to Scully that driving without a trailer was called, 'bobtailing'. We immediately moved everything but essential toiletries and a change of clothes for morning into the truck, spending a good deal of time divvying up the space and deciding what was going where.

We went to Denny's for dinner, which was within walking distance about four blocks away. We returned to find the Gunmen in the parking lot, their rental car parked in front of our door. I'd called to give them the number earlier.

We walked up to them and Frohike started in immediately. "Christ, Mulder. We come all this way and you couldn't even be here to greet us."

"He's Marty now," Scully said with a smirk in her voice.

"I thought you only used that name for 1-900 calls," Langly cracked, earning him a glare from me. I groaned internally as I saw the look of amusement on Scully's face. That was definitely in the 'Scully doesn't need to know' column.

Changing the subject abruptly, I asked, "What have you got for us?"

"Pushy, pushy. The gratitude is overwhelming," Frohike mumbled as he opened the trunk of their rental car and they started pulling cases out of the trunk.

Scully unlocked the door and we traipsed inside. They laid the cases out on the bed and began opening them.

There were some interesting items in their collection. Scully was particularly impressed with the Ares Defense Mini Mag flashlight that would fire a .380 and still operate as a flashlight. There was also the Ares Defense Companion, a big 3-cell mag lite with a single shot .410 shotgun built in. The rest of the grocery list included a Glock with gunpower foldable stocks, a Berreta 92 Bigadier, two Sig Sauer P229 - 357, and a Para Ordnance Full Auto 85. Those things could fire 800-900 rounds a minute. They also threw in a Beretta Mag light shot gun. I was glad to see the Sigs. They had a safety, which our
government issue ones didn't, but otherwise it was a familiar gun.

But my personal favorite was a Sig77 with a M203 grenade launcher. I felt like James Bond preparing to go to war.

"Holy shit, Batman," Scully muttered after they were all laid out on the bed in my room.

The Gunmen chuckled as Scully shook her head. "What'd you think, guys? We were going to be playing Mad Max?"

I laughed at her Thunderdome reference, silently impressed that she'd seen that movie at all. Didn't seem like her type of fare.

In his calm, unruffled way, Byers said, "We wanted you to be prepared for any eventuality."

"No doubt about that," I commented. "How much do I owe you?"

Frohike was shaking his head. "Don't worry about it."

"Yes, worry about it. These guns cost a fortune."

"There's ammo for them all in the car too. I'll go get that," Langly announced and disappeared through the door.

"Frohike, I have the money. How much?"

He sighed, "A lot."

I nodded. "Send me a bill. I'm serious. Total it all up and let me know. I'll be in touch with you guys in a few days and I'll wire you the money. I don't want you to sit on this type of bill."

He nodded. I knew the price tag was in thousands. There had to be $10,000 worth of firepower here. We carefully put the guns back in the cases and thanked the guys. We walked them out to the parking lot. Byers pulled a small canvas bag from the trunk of the car and handed it to me. I didn't want to discuss the contents of the bag with Scully until later on the road.

Frohike stared unabashedly at Scully as she stood with her hands in the back pockets of her jeans, pushing her chest out unconsciously and stretching the material of her snug fitting tee shirt.

He glanced at the hiking boots that she was wearing until we picked her up some work boots, and he scanned her from toe to head. She took her hands out of her back pockets and scrunched her shoulders slightly as she realized the effect she was presenting.

"You make a hot trucker momma," Frohike blurted out, unable to help himself.

Scully scowled and I grinned. "Shut up, Frohike," she responded.

"Mmm, mmm, mmm, definitely an improvement on those schoolmarm suits you wear to work."

"Hey, those suits cost a lot of money," she exclaimed, totally missing the point. Or maybe she wasn't and was trying to change the subject.

He grinned. "Yeah, but they cover you up too much."

"She doesn't dress for you, Frohike," I said, figuring I better step in before this got ugly.

He grinned unrepentant. "Don't I know it."

"Good bye, guys," she said curtly and they turned and piled into the car with Byers behind the wheel, Frohike in the passenger seat and Langly in the back. They backed out of their parking space and we waved. Frohike peeled out a wolf whistle as they drove out of the driveway.

I couldn't help laughing and looked down to see Scully scowling. "Better get used to it," I said in between chuckles.

"Get used to it? What's that supposed to mean? I'm not becoming the little woman, so just get that out of your head right now."

I smiled at her. "I meant that men are going to be checking you out, Scully. You're a beautiful woman, it's just a fact. They aren't all mature and respectful like me," I teased.

That made her chuckle. "Yeah, right. You're soooo mature," she teased back.

I put my hands over my heart and said, "Moi? You wound me, Scully."

"I'll wound you all right, if I hear any sexist comments in front of anyone. So help me Mulder, you embarrass me and there will be hell to pay."

She turned on her heel and headed for the door to her room. "I don't doubt it," I muttered as I followed her. "Help me get these into the truck?" I asked.

She sighed. "Yeah, we better in case we have to roll out early in the AM."

I smiled at her choice of words. I didn't even think she realized she was already starting to talk the lingo. "Let's roll, baby," I teased, unable to stop myself from getting in one last jab.

She scowled, "Go ahead and push it, Mulder. I'll make you sorry."

"Oh, I hope so!" I replied. She chuckled and we began taking the cases out to the truck. We had to find a place to hide them all. The pistols were put under the seats, the Mag Lites in the glove box. At least we would have those within easy reach. The rifles and larger guns were stored in the overhead compartments situated over the bunk. Finally, we were done and ready for bed. I checked the locks on the cab door and exterior compartments and turned to follow her back to the sidewalk.

Before leaving her, I pulled her to me outside our motel room doors. She smiled up at me. "What?"

"You know what. Where's my good night kiss, Mrs. Tanner?" I teased.

She sighed a long suffering sigh, still not liking being called Mrs. Tanner. "Mulder ..."

"Kiss me," I whispered, leaning down and capturing her lips before she could lodge any protests.

Her hands came up around my neck and I wrapped my arms around her waist, pulling her up tight against me. I deepened the kiss and felt my groin tingle as I started to harden.

I felt daring and moved away from her mouth, tracing a path to her neck and sucking gently on her pulse at the base of her neck. She moaned and I gripped her tighter, swirling my tongue on the skin and tasting her. She pushed gently on my shoulder. "Mulder, stop."

I moved back up to her lips, ignoring her command and took her mouth under mine again, slipping my tongue between her swollen lips and teasing her tongue. She mewled into my mouth, a sound that made me harden fully and I pressed into her soft belly, her jeans and mine doing nothing to block the heat coming off my dick.

Just then, a trucker I recognized from the headquarters walked past and grumbled, "Geez, get a room, you two."

I chuckled and released Scully as she flushed bright red. "Jesus, Mul... Marty, we're right out in the open."

I smiled softly, "So what? We're supposed to be married, remember?"

"That's not the point ..." she trailed off. "Forget it. Good night, Marty."

"Good night ... Dana."

I reluctantly watched her disappear through her door and put the key into mine. Another lonely night with a hard on to relieve. I couldn't go on like this. I told myself I should be happy with what we had. I should be doing thrilled just over the fact that she allowed me to touch her at all. I should be ecstatic that she was giving me good night kisses.

But I'm a pig. All I could think was, 'I want more.' I was a greedy bastard and now that I'd tasted her, nothing but the whole enchilada was going to satisfy me. I was tired of pussy footin' around. I wanted IN, and I wanted IN NOW.

I stripped and lay down on the bed to complete my nightly ritual. I gripped myself and gasped, closing my eyes and picturing her swollen lips in my mind's eye and replaying the mewling whimper that I swallowed just minutes before. I wasn't going to last long tonight.

Didn't matter, it was just a means to an end, anyway. I wanted the real thing and I was going to have it ... soon ... even if I had to push.

XXXXXXXXXX

ROUTE 65 NORTH
TENNESSEE

Our first assignment came in the morning. We were to go to a drop and hook warehouse in Portland, Tennessee on the Kentucky border. There we would pick up a trailer full of old computers and bring them to a business named Computer Solutions in Louisville, Kentucky. These were all outdated computers that were being turned in for overhaul or being sold for parts to this business. Computer Solutions had a government contract to upgrade hardware throughout the mid-west for most government installations.

It was no coincidence that we were hauling government computers. This would be a prime target for the hijackers as their previous heists had targeted technology type loads. Once there, we were to pick up newly reconditioned computers and deliver them to various government agencies roughly along a path toward Nevada.

We rose and dressed after the phone call that awoke us with our assignment and we headed out. I chose to drive the first leg and headed north on Route 65.

Scully chattered about the significance of the load we were hauling as we tooled up the highway. "Do you think they'd hit us so soon?"

"You mean on this first run?" I asked for clarification.

"Yeah."

"I don't know. We have no idea if there's someone inside the company that's arranging these loads and tipping off the hijackers, or how they are getting their information on the loads. It could be an inside job at Global-Tech, or it could be DOT workers that inspect the trailers and loads at weigh stations. We have no way of knowing. That's what we need to find out."

"I think when we hit the DOT weigh stations, we should work out a plan."

"What kind of plan?"

"Well, I was thinking one of us should stay with the inspectors while they go over the truck and the other one should wander around and observe any others that may be there, see if anything pops up."

"You mean split up?" I asked with a note of anxiety in my voice.

"Not really split up, per se. But we want to watch the inspectors to see if we notice anyone taking undue interest in the content of our load. On the other hand, if there's some stoolie in the weigh station picking up the phone as soon as he knows what we're hauling, I want to know about that too and we can't be in two places at the same time unless we split up. It's just while we're at the weigh stations."

"What excuse could we have for wandering inside? Most of these places are little more than huts, some have a building, but even those aren't usually large. Others are located in a space that has more of a rest area with a convenience store or whatever."

"I can always ask to use the bathroom. Women always have to pee."

I chuckled at that. "Most of the bathrooms are located in the rear of the buildings."

"Right next to the offices. Just a thought," she tossed out.

I sighed, knowing her plan was sound but always hating it when we split up. I would never admit to her my niggling concern about her being a woman in this environment. I'd meant what I said about a lot of men not respecting women. I knew, intellectually, that Scully could take care of herself. That didn't mean that I could stop myself from worrying. I had to keep reminding myself that she was a fully trained FBI agent and she'd be insulted if I told her the real reason I didn't want us to split up.

"Just be careful if we do that. I don't like the idea of splitting up."

"Afraid I'll get in a jam?" she asked, zeroing in on my concern without even trying.

I sighed. "No, I'm afraid I will," I answered, which was also true.

She chuckled. "I won't ever be far away and we both know how to yell for help, Mulder."

"Marty."

"Huh?"

"We need to start calling each other Dana and Marty, or we're going to mess up at some critical point. I know it's hard, Dana, but we have to try and get into our 'roles.' If we don't, we'll never pull this off."

"You just want to play house," she teased.

"Well, that is a side benefit," I said in a cavalier tone. "I'm serious, though," I added, growing more somber.

"You're right. It's hard, though."

"Hard how? To remember to call me Marty?"

She swallowed. "No, it's just ... hard to pretend we're married," she said finally.

I concentrated on the road for a few seconds while I took a particularly sharp corner on the highway, my eyes darting to all the mirrors to check for traffic as I changed lanes. Like riding a bike, I thought. This was something that you never forgot once you'd done it. I found the mindless activity of driving soothing. I would often go driving when I needed to think or relax. It was a secret of mine that not many people knew. That summer, driving for the loggers, I'd discovered the peace that there was to be found on the open road with nothing but the moon and stars for company. I still had some of that in me. Maybe it was why I loved traveling so much. There really wasn't much waiting for me at home. I never minded being on the road, although I knew Scully longed often to be more stationary.

I didn't quite know what to make of her comment. Finally I answered, "Why? Can't picture it, can you?"

She must have detected the note of hurt in my voice that I was trying to hide. Her next words were, "What are you saying? It's easy for you to picture us married? Come on, Mulder. This is US we're talking about."

My thumb moved up to finger the wedding band on my left ring finger. I twirled it around and swallowed around the lump in my throat. "What do you mean, it's US we're talking about? What's so fucked up about me that you can't even imagine being married to me?"

I glanced at her and she looked puzzled. "It's not YOU, Mulder. It's US, who we are, Federal Agents, on the road all the time."

"Who said marriage has to include the farm house with the white picket fence and 2.5 kids? There are lots of ways to have a marriage, Scully. Granted, not all of them are ideal. But if two people love each other and they work well together, it doesn't matter where they are, where they roost at night."

"Roost?"

"You know what I mean. There are couples that work on opposite coasts and maintain marriages. There are couples that travel for their work and make a go of marriage." I paused. "And there are FBI agents who make marriage work."

She was silent for so long that I was afraid I'd said too much. At long last, she spoke quietly. "Are you saying you can picture it?"

An instinct told me to go for broke. "I picture it all the time, Scully. It's one of my favorite fantasies." I glanced at her again and she looked startled.

"You mean your fantasies don't include sexy lingerie and lap dances?" she tried to tease, but her voice came out breathy.

I chuckled. Gee, thanks for that visual, Scully. I felt my groin tingle and ruthlessly suppressed it. This was serious. She rarely opened up to me, and her questions indicated that she wanted to clarify some things, too. Maybe answers to these questions were what she needed to finally make the decision to move this gravy train forward. I felt like we were standing on a precipice. How I answered her questions would determine the fate of our relationship. I was scared and exhilarated at the same time. "I have some of those too, but mostly, I just dream of what it would be like."

"What it would be like? What's IT, Mulder?"

I swallowed hard, keeping my eyes on the road. I needed to, but it was also a good excuse not to have to look at her. I was suddenly sweating for no apparent reason. We didn't talk like this often and I didn't want to pass up the opportunity to get some things out in the open. On the other hand, I didn't want to blow it by saying too much and scaring her off. She was softening toward me and I didn't want to send her scurrying for cover again. I needed to be honest with her.

I said, "Just ... being with you, Scully."

"You mean sex?"

I sighed. "No, you're missing the whole point."

"Which is?" she asked, sounding a bit testy.

I risked glancing at her again and realized she was staring at me. I squirmed in the seat a bit and then said, "The point is, Scully, that I want to be with you and not just as your work partner or your best friend. I thought I'd made that clear."

"Yeah, but wanting to advance our relationship into the physical realm doesn't mean you want all the baggage of a committed relationship," she responded.

I scowled. "We really aren't on the same page sometimes, you know that?"

She clucked her tongue. "I don't know where you're going with this, Mulder."

"Marty."

"Marty, whatever. What are you trying to say ... exactly?"

"I'm saying I want it all, Scully."

"Dana," she corrected.

"Right, Dana. Hello pot this is the kettle," I quipped but then got serious again. "I don't know about you, but I've been committed for a long time already."

"Meaning?"

"Meaning ... you're the ONE, Scully. I've known it for a long time. We've already been sharing each other's baggage for years and it hasn't sent either one of us screaming for the hills. We're as close as two people can be without making love. Hell, yes, I can picture us married. We're already closer than most married couples. We just don't have that little piece of paper that makes it legal ... well, that, and we don't sleep together."

"Elaborate on what you mean by you've already been committed.'"

"That didn't make sense? I love you, Scully. I told you that. I want to be your man, in every way. I want to have sex, yes, but it goes WAY beyond that." At that very moment, I realized it for myself. It did go way beyond that. For all my frustration and vows to push a physical relationship, that wasn't what it was about for me.

"I want to be THE man in your life, Dana. I want to have the right to knock some asshole's hand off your shoulder. I want to be able to kiss you in public. I want to come home to you every night and eat dinner together and watch TV."

"You don't get enough of me during the week?" she tried for another half hearted tease.

"I never get enough of you, Dana."

I heard her huff out a breath and glanced at her again, surprised to see wetness pooling in her baby blues. "You've been the only woman for me for ... a long time. There's a reason why I don't date. That reason is YOU. Nobody measures up to you, Dana. Nobody even comes close ... not for me. It's you or nobody."

"God, Mulder. How can you say that? You don't know who you might meet down the road."

"No, I don't, and it doesn't matter. In my heart, I committed to you a long time ago. Don't you get it? I want it all. I would never push you, but I want to be intimate with you. I want to share everything with you. And yes, damn it; someday, I want to be married to you."

"I don't know what to say."

"Don't say anything. Just think about it. I know you're not ready for that yet ... but know that it's there waiting for you ... whenever you are ready ... if you're ever ready. I'll still be here waiting."

She didn't say anything and I watched the road again, concentrating harder than I had to. Traffic was light. I stole glances at her as she stared out the window, avoiding looking at me. I decided some levity was needed here.

"Besides, you should know by now that I'm like a burr under a saddle. I'm very hard to get rid of and I'll keep poking you until you give in. I can be very persistent when I want to be."

"Don't I know it," she muttered.

I turned and she was smiling at me. I returned the smile and said, "Just think about it."

She nodded and turned away again.

"You know what?"

"What?"

"Screw this name thing. Just be careful to call me Marty in public or if someone else is around. When we're alone, we're Mulder and Scully, that's who we are. I'm not going to drive myself crazy with it."

"O.K.," she said softly.

After a minute, I asked, "Just tell me one thing."

"What?"

"You do love me, don't you?"

"Yes," she said softly.

"You're IN love with me?" I pushed.

Her breath hitched in her throat and she whispered, "Yes."

I smiled, feeling warmth steal through my chest, feeling tears sting my eyelids. I blinked rapidly and said in a husky voice, choked with emotion, "Then I can wait forever, as long as I know you love me."

XXXXXXXXXXX

We made it. We both finished the driving course and made it through the introductions to our dispatcher at Global-Tech. We'd even picked up our truck...rig.

I have to admit, it hasn't been the nightmare I thought it would be. Driving a big rig was just another skill I had to learn, like Mulder had tried to tell me. I thought he was just trying to talk me into taking the assignment and reassure me when he first promised me that I could do this, but he was right again. One more off-the-wall theory that proved to be true.

I've been puzzled by Mulder's behavior during the entire first part of this assignment. Something about Mulder is different. I was trying to analyze exactly what and why, when it came to me out of the blue.

We were checking out our new rig and it hit me . . . Mulder was happy. The darkness that had been his constant companion for most of our partnership was missing. He told me he was free after his revelation about Samantha in starlight, but the grief over his mother's death had still colored his world a deep shade of grey.

During the day to day routine of our lives, I somehow lost track of the precise moment that Mulder's depression lifted. I tried to think back to a conversation or event that should have clued me in to his relief, but I couldn't. I think it was a gradual adjustment that wasn't obvious while we continued in our normal surroundings.

Then another revelation struck me. As soon as he was able to kiss me, touch me, the final veil had lifted from behind his eyes. While he had changed over the course of time, there was a hesitancy, a quality of indecision that permeated his interactions with me. By the simple act of allowing that first lover's kiss, all his hesitation was gone. He was smiling more and he looked like a man ... with a future ... something to look forward to ... like a man in love.

I was talking to Cole about the maintenance schedule for our rig while Mulder was climbing like a monkey all over it, inside and out. I turned toward his exuberant, "S...Dana! Check this out!"

He was hanging off the handle on the cab, grinning like a little kid. The sun was peeking through the clouds and took that exact moment to bathe him in a patch of gold. He was so brilliant and beautiful in the glare of the sunshine, I had to shade my eyes with my hand. The happiness in his smile was blinding.

The long, lean line of his body was highlighted against the black and chrome of the Kenworth we were given to drive. His blue chambray shirt molded to his body as if it were custom tailored and his jeans were like a second layer of skin on him. I gazed at the breadth of his shoulders and the ropey muscles in his arms. The muscles in his long legs flexed as he climbed over the back of the truck with
amazing agility. When he jumped down and bent over to check the air lines, I knew I gasped. The worn denim of his jeans cupped his spectacular ass and left nothing to the imagination. I had never wanted him more than I did at that moment. Happy Mulder was a hard man to resist.

I must have stood there for several minutes, grinning like a fool. I would probably still be there if Cole hadn't cleared his throat and said, "You two been married long?"

I blushed and looked down at the clipboard in my hand, "Not that long, two years." Thank God I remembered the cover story Skinner had set up for us.

Cole laughed and shook his head. He continued with the orientation and I tried to pay attention. We drove, I mean, we bobtailed the rig back to the motel for a final night before hitting the road.

Mulder surprised me with the news that the Gunmen were meeting us at the motel later. When I asked him why, he gave me a secretive smile and told me that I would find out soon enough.

Find out I did. They brought enough armament to start a small war. We had not been allowed to bring our service weapons along, as they were
too easily traced to our real names. Skinner had approved us purchasing, legally, a few guns and had even gotten permits for Marty and Dana Tanner to carry concealed weapons. I don't think this arsenal was what he had in mind.

The guys dropped off the weapons and ammunition and then took off right away, but not before Frohike got in a few drooling remarks. If I didn't know that he truly respected and liked Mulder and me, I would have taken the little troll out. As it was, Frohike was just being Frohike. Ya had to love him. The last thing the guys gave us was a small canvas bag that Mulder stored in the rig without opening. I assumed it was a 'guy gift' and didn't question him. If he wanted to share, he would later.

The next morning, I was difficult. We were off on our first assignment and needed to be sharp. I felt like I needed at least a gallon of coffee before I could face the day. I didn't get to sleep until after 4:00 AM. Mulder's goodnight kiss had kept me awake until then. I knew I was being argumentative and purposely distant, but I couldn't help it.

We discussed the possibility of an early attack and some ideas I had been thinking about to flush out our perps. Mulder was concerned, as usual, about us splitting up. Sometimes his protectiveness drove me crazy, but this time he did have a point.

When he cautioned me to call him Marty, I tried to lighten the subject by teasing him, "You just want to play house."

His quick uptake on my tease surprised me.

"Well, that is a side benefit," he said lightly. "I'm serious though," he added somberly.

"You're right. It's hard, though," I responded.

"Hard, how? To remember to call me Marty?"

I swallowed and decided to tell him the truth. "No, it's just... hard to pretend we're married," I said.

A few moments later he said, "Why? Can't picture it, can you?"

I could hear the pain in his voice. Could I tell him the truth? Could I tell him how dear the idea was to me? No, we had to keep this professional until the assignment was over. I answered his question with a question.

"What are you saying? It's easy for you to picture us married? Come on, Mulder, this is US we're talking about."

He seemed taken aback by my words and replied, "What do you mean, it's US we're talking about? What's so fucked up about me that you can't even imagine being married to me?"

He shot a quick glance at me and I knew he could tell I was puzzled by his response. I added quickly, "It's not YOU, Mulder. It's US, who we are, Federal Agents, on the road all the time." I purposely left out the unspoken reasons. We were in constant danger of being killed or separated by the vermin that hid in the shadows of the conspiracy we were trying to uncover. I didn't want Mulder to even think about that aspect right now. We didn't need to add his guilt over past happenings to this conversation.

I had obviously deflected his thinking when he responded, "Who said marriage has to include the farm house with the white picket fence and 2.5 kids? There are lots of ways to have a marriage, Scully. Granted, not all of them are ideal. But if two people love each other and they work well together, it doesn't matter where they are, where they roost at night."

"Roost?"

"You know what I mean. There are couples that work on opposite coasts and maintain marriages. There are couples that travel for their work and make a go of marriage." Then he paused. "And there are FBI agents who make marriage work."

I was silent for a long time. "Are you saying you can picture it?" I asked quietly.

"I picture it all the time, Scully. It's one of my favorite fantasies." He glanced at me again and could tell I was startled.

Once again he had managed to surprise me. "You mean your fantasies don't
include sexy lingerie and lap dances?" I teased, but my voice came out entirely too girlie for my comfort. It must have given him the go-ahead for the rest of the conversation.

He rocked my world. He loved me and wanted to be married to me. It wasn't entirely about sex. It was about commitment and love and friendship and comfort. All the things I had been denying that I needed for years. All the things I wanted from Mulder and never believed that he would ever want from me.

All the things that I couldn't allow him to feel for me. He deserved a whole woman. Someone that could give him children. Someone unlike me. But his words continued and he told me that he was committed to me.

To me. He really did want to be married to me. I realized suddenly how insulting it was for me to assume that this was purely about sex and intimacy, although that was a part of it. Mulder was not a shallow person in any other way; why had I assumed that he would be in this situation? But I had. I thought he wanted the sex without the marriage, the intimacy without the full commitment. It never occurred to me that he would want marriage. Guess I was wrong again.

Was this a real proposal? I was at a loss, so I said, "I don't know what to say."

"Don't say anything," he responded. "Just think about it. I know you're not ready for that yet ... but know that it's there waiting for you ... whenever you are ready ... if you're ever ready. I'll still be here waiting."

When I didn't reply, the Mulder self-deprecating sense of humor came out. "Besides, you should know by now that I'm like a burr under a saddle. I'm very hard to get rid of and I'll keep poking you until you give in. I can be very persistent when I want to be."

"Don't I know it," I grumbled, smiling at him.

"Just think about it," he smiled back.

I nodded and turned away thinking of all he had just said.

After a minute, he asked, "Just tell me one thing."

"What?" I couldn't wait to hear what was coming next.

"You do love me, don't you?"

I had to force a quiet "Yes," from my lips. He was taking my breath away with his directness.

"You're IN love with me, right?" he clarified.

"Yes," I managed.

He smiled and said in a husky tone, "Then I can wait forever, as long as I know you love me."

I looked away, trying to gain a little space to process all that had just been said. Being in constant contact with Mulder was driving me crazy and this conversation had not helped. Sure, we were together constantly in DC, but I had my apartment, my mother's house, church... places I could relax and enjoy without the constant edge of sexual tension that haunted me every time I was around Mulder. I was a woman in the middle of my sexual peak and I had what most women would agree was one of the most desirable men in the western hemisphere as my constant companion and I couldn't do a thing about it. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Or at least, I couldn't before now.

I felt like I was going crazy. I'd masturbated more in the past ten days than I did all through high school, college and med school. I couldn't stand it. I knew he was only a door away... an unlocked door away. No one would know. No one could prove anything. He was letting me know that he wanted me. He called out my name when he hit his orgasm. So what was stopping me? I'd asked myself that a hundred times last night alone. Each time it came down to one statement.

We needed to keep our professional lives and our personal lives separate so that we could survive to enjoy said personal lives.

That was it. The assignment came first. When this was all over, I had no doubt that we would take some time off and explore every aspect of our relationship. I knew I wanted to.

There were a lot of things I wanted to do with and to Mulder. I wanted to strip him and lick every inch of his beautiful body. I wanted to have sex with him everywhere and anywhere . . . every way and every position.

When I heard him moan and knew that he was yelling my name because he had jacked off again, I was jealous of his right hand. Was it his right hand or did he use his left? Does he switch hit? I wanted to know everything.

I wanted to know how he tasted and smelled and felt. I wanted to tease him with my tongue and draw him as far down my throat as I could. I wanted to taste him, every part of him. I wanted to run my teeth over his nipples and tease him with my tongue. I wanted to stroke my sex with his cock until I came. I wanted his tongue in my ear, my mouth, my sex. I wanted him.

I didn't want to ever have to worry about another woman touching him. I was amazed to realize that I was jealous. I hated his clothes because they caressed him as I could not give myself permission to do. I hated every waitress, clerk, secretary, police woman, female agent and doctor we met that coveted him with their eyes, thought of him sexually, lusted after him.

And now that he had just laid it all on the line and told me how he felt, I was definitely going to be certifiable by the time this assignment was over. Why was I driving myself crazy?

Over and over I forced myself to think about all the good, sound reasons to hold off on this relationship. But every good reason was countermanded with a visual of Mulder lying naked under me, over me, oh my God, IN me.

Somewhere near Portland, I came to the conclusion that this must end. Tonight, after we dropped our load, I'd get Mulder to stop at a motel and we would take this final step in our relationship. Well, the second to the last step. We would have our consummation, tonight. Talk of marriage could wait until after the assignment.

If I didn't get relief from the need for Mulder I was experiencing, I was going to be too distracted to do my job. We both had to be at the top of our game to catch these guys. This was a dangerous assignment. Besides, if I didn't quit creaming my panties with flashes of fantasies about Mulder, I was going to get diaper rash.

We dropped the load and were immediately given another pick up. We had a load of refurbished computers to drop in Little Rock, Arkansas. I took my turn driving down I40 first and Mulder dozed in the seat beside me. I was somewhat tentative at first, but Mulder's confidence in me helped settle my nerves down, at least about driving.

I was totally psyched about our evening together. I smiled to myself, thinking of the way things were going to proceed tonight.

XXXXXXXXXX

PART 6 (PG-13)
I40 MEMPHIS, TN
SUPER 8 MOTEL

I slammed the door of the motel room and threw myself down on the bed, tears beginning to fight their way past my resolve and stream down my face.

'How could he do this to us?' I asked myself.

Just when I was ready to take our relationship one step farther, Mulder killed it. I wasn't sure I could even continue the assignment.

All the barriers I had built up around my heart that Mulder had so effectively torn down with his words of love and commitment earlier began to move back into place.

I could do this. I was a professional. We were on assignment and I could complete it. I'd get a transfer as soon as we solved this case.

The thought of living without Mulder caused a fresh spate of tears. I sobbed into my pillow, lying in the dark. What made a man do such things? Why did he have to turn out to be like all the others? I should have known better.

I could see it now in my mind, as if it were just happening.

We stopped for fuel about five hours down the road. I pulled into a decent looking truck stop and woke Mulder. I asked him if he wanted to stop at the motel across the parking lot for the night, but he said that after we got fueled and ate that we should go on.

He didn't know what I had in mind. When I tried to coax him into staying, he was firm about continuing. After I pushed him about his reasoning he finally said, "I don't think I can take another night of jacking off, Scully. I've had enough sleep. Let's just keep going."

"There are other things to do in a motel than masturbate, Mulder," I said. I was losing my temper with this stubborn man. How could I convince him without telling him outright that I wanted tonight to be our first time and I didn't want it to happen in a truck bunk.

He refused to see the need to stop.

Sure. Fine. Whatever. "Like I said, there are other things to do in a motel room than abuse yourself, Mulder," I spat.

"Oh?" Suddenly he was interested. I wasn't.

"I need a shower, Mulder." I wasn't in the mood to do anything but argue at this point.

"Well, you made a great choice of stops, then, Scully. Cole told me that all the AMERASTOP truck stops have great shower and laundry facilities. You can get your shower while I fuel up the rig."

He was trying to be conciliatory, but I wanted nothing to do with it. HE didn't know what HE was turning down. I did.

"Fine," I said shortly. I climbed into the bunk and grabbed my duffle with a change of clothes and my toiletries. I slammed out of the truck and stormed into the shower facilities.

By the time I was through with my shower, I felt a lot calmer. I was anxious to make love to Mulder, but it shouldn't get in the way of our assignment. I made the decision that it would happen, but I couldn't dictate when and where without his agreement. I felt foolish that I had been so angry and sarcastic with him. I turned in the key to the shower stall and waited for my receipt.

"That your man out there by the black Kenworth?" the older man at the counter asked.

I looked out the window and saw Mulder standing with his back to me next to our rig.

"Yes," I responded.

"Well, if I was you, I wouldn't waste any time getting back out there. Chloe, the newest lot lizard, has got her eye on him. Some guys have all the luck. Don't see why he'd be interested in a whore when he has a looker like you," he leered.

I held out my hand for my receipt and he grinned. "You come on back now, ya hear? Ol' Tom'll let you plant your boots under my bunk any time, Red."

I glared at him and his badge that said, "Hello, My name is Tom" and left without a word. Mulder was right. I was going to have to be careful.

I walked through the door to the parking lot and was bumped by a man coming in the building.

"Excuse me, ma'm," he said politely. I was just about to tell him it was all right when I caught the gleam in his eye. He had brushed against me on purpose.

"No harm done," I said and started to pick up my duffle.

"Let me," he quickly said and swooped down to get it.

"Thanks," I said as I pulled it from his hand, walking way.

He grabbed my arm and stopped me. "Would you like a cuppa joe?" he asked.

"Thanks, but my husband is waiting for me," I said, grateful that I had Mulder as an excuse.

"Lucky man," the guy said and tipped his cap.

I looked back toward the area that Mulder had parked the truck and my world came crashing down.

He was there, all right. And so was one of the lot lizards we had been warned about. They were talking seriously and I could see the look of adulation on this young girl's face.

She was obviously taken with Mulder, and God help me, he seemed to be attracted to her. She was standing there, barely dressed for daylight, and everything I could never be.

She was young, fresh and beautiful. She was tall and slender with a set of breasts that would make a priest drool. The worst part of all was that under her makeup, she was a natural beauty. Her eyes were sparkling through her long black lashes. Her honey blond hair and tan complexion were also natural. And Mulder was eating it up.

He was on the phone and nodded to her. She squealed and threw herself into his arms. He seemed somewhat clumsy but put his arm around her and hugged her back. They didn't see me. They didn't even look around, as a cab pulled up. Mulder jumped into the rig for a few seconds. I didn't even care what he was getting ... probably a condom from the little bag the Gunmen had given him.

Then they got into the cab that Mulder had obviously called and took off. I stood there dumbfounded for a moment or two. I decided to get a room at the motel when the tears threatened to fall. Now I was here and he was there, wherever he was. Fucking a whore and destroying our chance at happiness. I cried myself to sleep.

XXXXXXXXXX

Jesus, could my life get any more complicated? Why do these things always land in my lap?

I exited the truck, planning on going inside to grab a few sandwiches for the road and a salad for Scully. I slammed the door and turned, coming face to face with a young girl, a child really, dressed in a black leather mini skirt that barely covered the essentials, an exposed midriff and a pink spandex tube top that left nothing to the imagination. 'She's going to freeze to death in that outfit', was my first thought.

She smiled and snapped her gum. "Hi, honey, you interested in a date?"

Oh, Christ, she was a prostitute, or a lot lizard, as they called them in the industry. "No, thanks," I said and started to walk by her.

She grabbed my arm and I turned back to look at her. Black coal makeup was slightly smudged around her green eyes and they were pooling with wetness. "Mister, please. I haven't eaten since yesterday," she said softly.

Well, shit. Now what? "How about if I buy you some food?" I offered.

She smiled shyly and nodded her head. "I'd really 'preciate it."

"What do you want?"

"Anything, I like ham sandwiches."

"Stay here. Don't move," I commanded when she started to follow me. She frowned but nodded her head.

I walked into the truck stop restaurant and looked in the display case that held ready-made sandwiches. I bought two ham sandwiches for her, two chicken salad for me and a garden salad for Scully. I bought three ice teas to go with it. I paid and the waitress behind the register said, "Look out for Chloe, she's a wily one."

"Just getting her some dinner," I replied.

She smirked and I heard a huff of laughter behind me. "Sure you are, darlin'."

She didn't believe me and I didn't really give a shit. I turned and walked out of the restaurant. 'Chloe' was waiting just where I'd left her. I handed her the two sandwiches and she smiled. "Thanks. Want to sit down over there?"

There were picnic benches off to the side on the lawn in front of the building. "It's cold, get in the truck."

She beamed a smile that told me she was expecting more. I sighed and climbed into the driver's seat. As soon as the doors closed, she tore into the wrapper and extracted one of the sandwiches. She ate like she was starving and some of my apprehension died away. "How old are you?" I asked.

She stopped in mid-chew and looked at me. Then she finished chewing and swallowed. "Old enough."

"I doubt it. How old are you?"

She looked at her lap. "Sixteen," she said quietly.

"Jesus," I muttered.

"Look, I can take care of myself. I 'preciate the food. I don't like charity, man, you know? You sure there ain't somethin' I can do for you? Pay you back, like?"

"No, nothing. Just eat the sandwich."

"I'm serious, Mister. I 'preciate this. I'll give you a blow job for nothin'!" she said, as if this would be an enticing offer.

I stared at her slack jawed at her bold offer. Her long silky, blonde hair was beautiful. Her youthful breasts were high on her chest, the cold making her nipples poke through the spandex that barely contained them. She had a stud in her tongue and a belly ring in her navel that peeked out above the top of the leather miniskirt. Most men would probably jump at the chance to plank a little hottie like this. Me ... I felt ... nothing. Not even a tingle.

I sighed. "Look, I appreciate the offer, but my wife is inside there taking a shower and she'll be back any minute now."

She smiled a sly smile that transformed her face from innocence to guile. "Bet she don't do things I'd do. Anything you want mister. What doesn't she do for you? Huh? She swallow?"

I grimaced. "Look, Chloe ..."

"She doesn't, does she? I swallow. I can even deep throat. She let you in the back door?" she asked quietly, leaning over and placing her hand on my thigh.

I slapped it away and said, "Christ!"

She giggled. "Come on, I don't want to owe you."

"You don't owe me anything."

"Your loss," she drawled and opened the second sandwich, devouring it in about three minutes during which the silence grew and I wished Scully would return. She would know how to handle this.

The girl was brazen and bold, something that used to turn me on. Now, only Scully turned me on and I had to wonder just how truly screwed and whipped I was. "Chloe, where do you live?"

She laughed. "Here, there and everywhere."

"You like this living?"

"I'm used to it."

"How long have you been doing it?"

"Two years."

"Two years! Jesus Christ! You're just a kid!"

She frowned. "Mister, I'm probably older than you are ... up here," she added and tapped her temple.

"If you had someplace to go, would you do this?"

She looked at me oddly. "I do what I have to do, Mister."

She was closing down. "I don't ask that because I'm criticizing."

"No, of course not," she said sarcastically.

"I'm asking because I might be able to help you."

"How? By buying me some food for the road?" she asked as she eyed my second sandwich. "You gonna eat that?"

"No," I said as I handed her my other sandwich. "If ... I could find you a shelter for teens or abused women ... would you go there?"

"I ain't got no money, Mister. I couldn't even buy a fuckin' sandwich. Remember?"

"You wouldn't need money. They take you in, clothe and feed you and try to help you find a job, get back on your feet ... so you don't have to do ... this."

"Why would you do that? I'm just a another whore, another bozo on the black top, you know?"

"You're a human being, Chloe, and a young one at that, with your whole life ahead of you. Where do you think you'll end up if you keep doing this?"

She was silent as she chewed slowly, looking like she'd suddenly lost her appetite. "I don't plan on doing this forever."

"What do you plan on doing?"

"Saving my money ... finding a room to rent, you know, normal stuff."

"What would you do if you could do anything?"

"I learned to type in school. I always thought I'd be a secretary someday."

I sighed. To her, that was a great aspiration, and I suppose it was. I'd love to see her be a secretary, anything but this. "Let me make a phone call."

"Where?"

"To find the closest shelter in the area."

"No! I don't want you helpin' me any more. I already owe you ..."

"Shush," I quieted her and pulled out my cell phone, dialing Skinner's office. It was late but I'd bet he was still there.

He answered on the second ring. [Skinner.]

"Hi, it's me."

[Trouble already?] he asked, with concern in his voice.

"Not the kind you mean."

[What's up, Mulder?]

"Can you have Kimberly do a quick check and find the nearest women's shelter to Memphis, Tennessee?"

[That where you are?]

"Yes."

[Why?]

"I'm sitting in my truck with a 16 year old prostitute that I'd like to see if I can take off the streets."

[Jesus, Mulder! How'd you get involved with that? Where the hell is Scully?]

"Taking a shower in the truck stop. Look, can you help me or not?"

[Hold on.] The phone clicked and he placed me on hold. I sat listening to the awful Muzak that the Bureau played on their hold system.

She asked, "Who you callin'?"

"My boss," I answered evasively.

"You're really gonna help me?" she asked softly, sounding astonished.

I nodded curtly. "I'm going to try. Look I gotta take a leak, get out of the truck," I said abruptly, embarrassed by her look of admiration.

We climbed out and she circled around to stand in front of me by the driver's side door. Skinner came back on the line. [You're in luck, Mulder, there's a shelter right there in Memphis. 'Graceland Home for Girls'. It's at 2360 Pine Street, across from the Warner Theater.]

"You're the best," I quipped.

[Just do it and get back there as quickly as possible, Mulder. You don't need to be getting involved in this shit. Keep to yourself, for Christ's sake. You might as well be wearing a neon sign. You don't need to be calling attention to yourself.]

"Who's gonna know?"

[Put her in a cab, Mulder. Don't argue with me about this.]

"Thanks for the info," I said, and hung up before he could argue with me some more.

"What'd he say? Who's your boss, anyway?"

"Never mind. There's a shelter here in Memphis." I called information and got the number and dialed. I spoke to a Mrs. Pincher and she said they had beds available and to bring the girl down. They provided room, board, counseling and job placement. I thanked her and hung up, and then called a cab, 1-800-YELLOW, the universal number for Yellow Cab Co.

When I was finished, I looked at Chloe and said, "They have a bed for you."

She squealed and launched herself into my arms, her arms going around my neck. She pressed her lithe, slender body up against mine. I tentatively put my left arm around her shoulders in a quick hug before I pushed her away as the taxi pulled up. That was quick, I thought. He must have just been around the corner.

I climbed into the rig and grabbed a pad from the glove box and scribbled Scully a note.

*Dana, I'm taking a young girl to the women's shelter at 2360 Pine Street in Memphis, The Graceland Home for Girls. Hope to help her get off the streets. I'll be back in no time. I love you, --- M.*

I left it on her seat where she'd have to sit on it. She couldn't miss it. I climbed down and locked the truck, knowing Scully had keys and turned to Chloe as the taxi pulled into the parking lot and stopped. "Ready to roll?" I asked her.

She threw herself at me again and whispered in my ear, "Thank you. I don't know how to thank you ... I don't even know your name."

"Marty," I said.

"Thank you, Marty. My real name's Meghan."

"Come on. Let's go. I need to get back and talk to my wife."

She nodded, tears making her eyes bright and we crawled into the cab.

It was a quick trip and I dropped her off. I checked her in with Mrs. Pincher, and left and went back to the truck stop. I crawled wearily into the truck and saw that the note was still on the seat. I peered into the sleeper and Scully wasn't there. What the fuck?

I felt panic surge through my veins and I leaped out the truck and ran inside. I frantically searched the restaurant booths for a flash of red hair. Turning to leave I heard the waitress drawl, "Lookin' for someone, sugar?"

I turned. "My wife, Dana. Short, redhead, beautiful, have you seen her?"

She smiled a conspiratorial smile. "No, I haven't. But since you ran off with Chloe, I don't imagine you need to find her right now, do you?"

What is this? I stalked up to her and she cringed as I towered over her. "I've had just about enough of your innuendo. For your information, Ms. Know-It-All, I just took that girl to a shelter for girls to help get her off the streets," I growled. "So you can shove your self-righteous attitude right up your ass, and TELL ME WHERE MY WIFE IS!" I shouted in her face.

She stepped back and stopped when she hit the counter. Her bottom lip was quivering and I felt guilty instantly. "I'm sorry ..." I said, running anxious hands through my hair and trying to calm down.

"No, no. I'm sorry. I thought you was a typical trucker. Guess not. That's a right-noble thing you did. But I swear, I haven't seen your wife."

I nodded. "Thank you." I turned and surveyed the booths, seeing about six or seven truckers eating quietly. They were all trying not to look at me. I announced to whole room, "If I find out anyone here hurt my wife, you're gonna wish you were never born."

I turned on my heel and marched out, stomping out to the truck. The exercise did nothing to calm my mind. I was picturing her dragged off into some trucker's rig, assaulted, or worse yet, ... oh God, please ... not the hijackers.

I climbed into the truck and realized I hadn't tried to call her cell phone. I searched the bunk and it wasn't there. She must have taken it with her. We'd agreed to always carry them, especially when we had to separate, even to shower. I quickly hit Speed Dial 1 on my cell phone and when she answered angrily, I felt all the tension drain out off my limbs and I slumped in the drivers seat.

XXXXXXXXXXX

The sound of my cell phone woke me up. The room was completely dark and I was disoriented. It only took a few seconds for all the pain to come crashing back down on my heart.

I fumbled in my coat pocket and pulled the offending noise maker out. It was Mulder.

"What?" I snapped.

"Scully! Where the hell are you?" He sounded scared. Scared and mad as I had ever heard him.

"What do you care, Mulder?"

"Scully, you know I always care. You disappeared. I didn't know where you were," he accused.

I couldn't stand the act any longer, "Wasn't your little friend enough for you, Mulder? Do you want to play lead-the-partner on some more?"

"Scully, what are you talking about?"

"You know very well, what I'm talking about, Mulder. I saw you leave with Chloe." Let him wonder where I found out her name.

He sucked in his breath and groaned. "Her name isn't really Chloe, Scully. It's Meghan and she...."

"Thanks for the update, partner, but I really don't need any more information," I interrupted.

"Scully!" he seemed hurt. "Where are you? When are you coming back to the rig so we can roll? I just made a scene in the truck stop looking for you."

"I'll be there in the morning, Mulder," I grated.

"Scully, what's wrong?"

"Wrong? What could possibly be wrong Mulder? We aren't married. You can sleep with whomever you choose. Just understand that by your actions this afternoon, you're choices don't include me any longer." I was tired of his innocent act.

"Scully, I don't understand. I didn't sleep with anyone. Why would you think that after our conversation this afternoon?"

"Mulder, I don't want to talk to you anymore." I started to hang up.

"Wait, Dana! Just answer a few questions and I'll leave you alone," he begged.

It was against my better judgment, but I wanted to see what he would ask. After all, the last time he had used that line he got me to admit that I was in love with him. Mulder never failed to surprise me.

"All right."

"Did you see me leave with Meghan earlier?"

"Yes," I spat. "Right after I saw her wrap herself around you in a full body feel-up."

He was quiet for a moment then asked, "Did you go back to the truck at all this afternoon?"

"No. I didn't want to be there when you came back." I said. The thought of Mulder climbing back into the cab with the smell of sex and another woman on him would have caused me to shoot him again, and this time I would aim to kill.

"So you didn't see my note," he said quietly.

Note? He left me a note? What did it say? I wondered. 'Goin' to get laid cause you won't let me into your pants?'

"Are you in the motel, Scully?" he asked quietly but I could feel the anger building in him.

I thought a long time before I said, "If I tell you where I am, will you leave me alone until morning?" I didn't want to see him tonight.

"I just want to know that you're safe, Scully. Are you in the motel?" he pushed.

"Yeah, but I used another name, so you wouldn't be able to find me," I said spitefully. If he really wanted to he would find me. My description alone could lead him to this room.

"I won't bother you tonight, Scully. But there's something you should see in the rig." I could tell that he was fighting to stay calm.

"There's nothing you have to show me that could change my mind, Mulder. I'll see you in the morning." And I hung up.

I cried myself to sleep again. What was I going to do?

XXXXXXXXXX

Shit. Damn. Fuck.

I should have known better. I should have found Scully first and told her what I was doing. Now she thought I'd slept with a prostitute. I didn't even want to examine why it hurt so much that she would automatically assume the worst about me. Did she think I could so easily betray her after confessing my commitment to her? Did she think I was that much of a horn dog? Jesus.

No, we weren't having sex. Yes, I wanted it more than I'd ever wanted anything in my life, but with HER. Just because I wasn't getting any and I was frustrated over the state of our relationship didn't mean that I was going to run off with the first piece of ass that crossed my path. How could she think that?

And why didn't she go back to the truck? She would have gotten my note and all this could have been avoided. But no, she had to jump to conclusions and go disappear in a huff. Didn't she know how dangerous it was to do that? To take off on her own? To not let me know where the FUCK she was! Jesus. I'd nearly had a heart attack.

Inanely, I thought I was good that I'd thought to get a second set of keys made or
I would have been locked out.

Well, she wasn't listening tonight and I knew there was no point in talking to her when she was in one of these moods. I looked at the note on the seat and left it right where it was. Guess we weren't going any further tonight. I pulled out the log books and logged our time. I stripped down to my boxers and crawled into the bunk, shivering under the cool sheets. My concern was warring with my anger. God damn it, Scully. Don't you have any more faith in me than that?

I felt tears in my eyes and I blinked them rapidly away. I laid there for an hour and sleep would not come. I wasn't even horny. Jerking off wasn't an option. I was too pissed off at her.

I got up and threw my jeans and a fresh tee shirt on. It was chilly, so I grabbed a sweatshirt and clipped on my Sig, covering it with the sweatshirt. I shoved my feet into my work boots without bothering to lace them up. I saw the neon glow of the Budweiser sign across the street and headed for it. Maybe a few beers would make me sleepy enough to drop off.

XXXXXXXXXX

PART 7 (R)
FRIENDLY BILL'S TAVERN
MEMPHIS, TN
01:00 AM

The bar was dimly lit and smoke-filled. The smoke burned my eyes as I entered and approached the bar. Several rough looking trucker types were sitting at the bar and grunted a greeting as I approached.

I was about to order a Heineken when I looked over and saw they were all drinking Miller. I ordered a Miller and sat down on the stool. No sense in standing out. The guy next to me stuck out his hand, "I'm Cooner."

I took his hand in a firm grip shook it. "Marty."

"What brings you here in the wee hours of the morning?"

"Couldn't sleep. Fight with the Mrs.," I muttered.

He clucked sympathetically. "Know all about that, partner," he replied.

He was an enormous man with biceps like tree trunks. He was wearing a denim shirt with the sleeves cut off and jeans and cowboy boots. His longish, greasy, black hair was tied back at the nap of his neck with an elastic.

He downed his beer and ordered another. "What'd you fight about?"

'None of your business' sprang to mind, but I found myself curiously wanting to unload on this stranger as he sat looking at me placidly. "I got approached by a lot lizard."

"Ooo, weee, yupper, that'll do 'er."

"Huh?"

"That's right plenty enough to piss off the little woman."

I smiled internally, knowing what Scully's reaction would be to being called the 'little woman'. "I didn't sleep with her," I said defensively.

He raised his eyebrows, "Why not?"

"Why not? Are you nuts? All the diseases out there? My wife right inside in the shower? I'm not the brightest bulb on the tree, Cooner, but I'm not a fuckin' idiot either. Besides, I wasn't interested. She was just a kid, for Christ's sake. And I love my wife. I couldn't do that to her."

He laughed then and said, "You're all right, Marty. Most men'd sleep with 'ol Chloe in a heartbeat."

I turned quickly to look at him. The surprise must have registered on my face. "Ever' body knows Chloe. Christ, most men who visit this stop regular have probably had her once or twice. She's a hot little tamale."

"You too?" I asked, unable to keep the disgust out of my voice entirely.

He grinned. "Naw, not me. I got my Alice at home and she's all I'll ever need."

I smiled. "Good woman, huh?"

"The best. Don't give me no reason to go anywhere else, you know what I'm saying?" he said with a conspiratorial wink.

"I don't know. What do you mean?"

He grinned, showing surprisingly well kept teeth. "Meaning she's a right hot roll in the hay all by herself, she is. I come home every two weeks and we rattle the walls, buddy. You can set your clock by it." He cackled at my look of surprise and then I started laughing with him.

"Your lady give you what you need?"

"Excuse me?"

"Well, that's why most of these losers shag a lot lizard, boy. Cause they ain't getting' it at home. The little wifeypoo holds out the poon tang thinking she be gettin' her way by doing that, you know? Control the hubby syndrome. But she shootin' herself in the foot cause they just leave and come here and shag some lizard like Chloe half of wifeypoo's age and a body that'd wifey would kill for."

"If they do that, then they don't really love their wives in the first place," I replied
confidently. He nodded in agreement.

His crude language aside, I understood what he was saying. Men went to prostitutes because they weren't getting intimacy at home, or the wife wouldn't do something they liked ... like say, oh, swallow their cum after a blow job. Chloe ... Meghan's astute offer came back to me in a flash. She might have been a young girl, but she knew her way around men and what they needed. She'd probably heard the complaints a million times about wives that wouldn't do things for their husbands, or held out and used sex as a weapon. I hoped Scully and I would never come to that. Of course, this was assuming she ever talked to me again.

I sat there and we proceeded to drink and chat until closing time. As we went out in the parking lot, Cooner offered, "Hey, I know an after hours place. You interested?"

"Sure," I said, without thinking. I knew that the prospect of returning to the empty truck didn't appeal to me right now. I climbed into his truck and we bobtailed down the road about two miles and parked in the back of a pool hall. We entered a back door and went down into a basement.

Unconsciously I touched my Sig Sauer, hidden under my sweatshirt and hooked to my waist. There were only three other guys, plus the bartender sitting around a big round table and drinking beer and playing poker.

I hadn't played poker since college but it all came back to me. Having an eidetic memory didn't hurt. We split up into three teams of two. After asking me if I knew 'shit' about poker, Cooner consented to partner up with me. We kicked ass.

Every time I made a good play or advised him on a move, he would raise his eyebrows but take the chance I was right. We played five rounds and drank about ten beers each. At the end, Cooner and I were $600 richer.

We split it 50/50 and he gave me a high five, leaning back on the back legs of his chair and nearly tipping over until I caught him and righted the chair. We were laughing like idiots and the others were laughing at us, apparently unfazed that they'd lost about $150 each.

I stared at his biceps and said, "Nice tattoos. Where'd you get them?"

"Right here in Memphis. The Bug does right nice work, don't you think?" he asked, flexing his gigantic biceps and making a mermaid on his arm belly dance. We all laughed.

"You got a tat?" he asked.

I shook my head. One of the other guys, Carl, asked "What the hell kind of trucker are you?"

I scowled at him. Cooner just said, "You ever want one?"

"I've thought about it."

"What stopped you?"

"The wife. Don't know how she'd react."

"Fuck the wife," Carl said.

I suppressed the frown and smiled instead. I hated when men talked like that. I was pretty buzzed, my head swimming and Cooner said, "Shit, it's 6:30. The Bug opens at 7:00 AM and he's just down the street. Why don't I take you down there and you can look around?"

"I'm not sure."

"Just look. Food for thought, buddy."

"No harm in that, I guess."

The bartender, Al, brought over a pot of coffee and six mugs and plunked them down on the table. "Drink up, you lushes. No driving till you're a wide awake drunk."

We all laughed and poured the coffee, waiting for 7:00 AM to come. Then we staggered unsteadily out of the bar into the breaking dawn, blinking like cave bats. We both groaned as we heaved ourselves into the rig.

Cooner leaned back and said, "I'm going home today. My little Alice is waiting in Sweetwater. But I wanted to tie one on first. Haven't done it in a while. I think I'm gonna regret it."

I laughed. "I KNOW I'm gonna regret it."

He laughed and fired up the truck and we slowly pulled out onto the state road. Three blocks later, he parked the truck on the side of the road and left the flashers going. We climbed out and he banged on the window of the 'Beauty Mark Tattoo Parlor'.

A skinny, little man about five foot, four inches tall, with a handle bar mustache and a bald pate unlocked the door, smiling from ear to ear. "Cooner, don't tell me you want another one, buddy. You ain't hardly got any room left."

Cooner laughed jovially and clapped the man on the back, nearly sending him sprawling. "Naw, I brought a friend though to take a look-see at your incredible arteesstic talents."

The man chuckled and backed up, letting us through the door. "This here's Marty," Cooner introduced us. I shook the man's hand and my eyes began to wander around the walls. They were wallpapered with various designs, each one interesting in its own right. My eyes locked on one that said, "Born to Lose" below a tiger with a rabbit in it's paws.

"Did you have anything in mind?" Bug asked.

"Not really. That one's nice," I pointed to the spot on the wall.

"The Born to Lose one?" he asked, puzzled.

"Yeah, I'm feeling like a loser," I said, wondering why I said that.

He shook his head. "Naw, all wrong for you. Keep looking while Cooner and I have a chat."

I nodded and they went into a back room and I continued to look around the store. There really was some amazing art work here. I thought of Scully and wondered if we would be able to work this out. We had to. There was no other option. I had to make her see that I wasn't a man that would run off with the first piece of ass that came along. I thought about my track record and some of the bimbos I'd dated, and I supposed I couldn't blame her entirely for her assumption. But it still hurt.

Scully and I were bound. I really believed some ethereal tether inextricably bound us. We were meant for each other and I had to make her see that, and somehow convince her to trust me, to not assume the worst when she saw me with another woman.

My eyes wandered over the walls and came to a sudden halt. I sucked in my breath as I stared at the picture. It was two Phoenix birds intertwined around each other as they rose from the ashes on the ground. I couldn't take my eyes off it. It was perfect. It was everything Scully and I were. We had been burned, beaten, separated, you name it. But we always rose above it, to come back to fight another day; and we always did it together, wrapped around each other, compensating for each other's weaknesses.

That's where they found me five minutes later, still staring at the Phoenii. I had to believe that this was just one more bump in the road, and like all the times in the past, Scully and I would rise above this, get beyond it. We would always be together, no matter what. I couldn't imagine my future any other way.

"You like that one son?" the Bug asked skeptically.

"I love it. It's ... exquisite."

"Just how drunk are you boy?" His eyes flashed over to Cooner.

"I'm not that drunk," I growled.

"Well, you must be if you're contemplating getting a tattoo on your cock!" the Bug exclaimed.

"What the hell are you talking about?" I said as soon as his words soaked through my concentration.

"Aren't you talking about Puff?" he asked.

I looked at him and shook my head to clear it even more. "Puff? The magic dragon?"

The Bug gawked at me and then began to emit a high pitched whiny laugh as he moved towards the display. He tapped the back of his hand against a display about a foot away from the phoenix and said, "Puff, the Flying Dragon. One of the best tats I ever did on one of the sickest bastards I ever met. He was so full of shit, his eyes were brown!"

Once again the Bug laughed at his own joke. "He called himself a mystic or doctor or somethin', but I knew he wasn't no doctor. He brought in the plan for that one. I wasn't going to do it, seemed kinda sick, ya know?"

I leaned closer to the pictures he had indicated, admiring the colors and the intricacy of the tattoo until I focused well enough to realized that it was indeed a dragon, tattooed on a man's penis, balls and abdomen. The work was fabulous, but the thoughts of a tattoo in that area made my stomach lurch. I jerked back far enough that the picture was out of focus again.

"What kind of man could get something like that done to himself?" I asked, knowing that he was probably going to end up as one of the three-named serial killers the VCU guys routinely tracked down.

"Don't rightly know. He came into town with a circus. Said his name was Dr. something..." the Bug trailed off.

"Dr. Blockhead?" I asked incredulously.

"Yeah, that's his name. You know him?" The Bug gave me a leery glare.

"Naw, I saw a flyer about his show at a truck stop once. I never forgot his name because of all the weird things he claimed he could do. Always thought it'd be cool to catch his show," I lied.

"Well, he was in town just long enough to get that done and move on. He sent me the pictures to let me know how it turned out. Don't know why I even display them. I wouldn't do that again for any amount of money. Which one do you like if it's not ol' Puff?"

I pointed to the intertwined phoenix tat.

The Bug nodded and grinned, "I'm proud of that one."

"I want it."

"That's not a cheap one, son."

"I don't care. I want it. Can you put the words, 'I Believe' below it?"

"No problem, come over here and pick out the type of font you want."

"Font?"

"Well, lettering actually. What type of lettering for the words."

I walked over to the counter and perused the letters, picking a simple, crisp looking design that would be easy to read. I tapped the book and he nodded.

"You drunk?"

"I'm buzzed," I admitted.

"Let's wait a bit. Cooner, you run over to the diner across the street and grab us all some coffee."

"Bossy little fucker, ain't he?" Cooner deadpanned.

I laughed. Bug said, "He's rude, crude and socially unacceptable ... my kinda guy."

We laughed again as he pulled out a copy of the design that was on the wall, a stencil that he would use to outline it on my arm.

He pulled my arm over the counter and examined it. "You got a great canvas there, pal, no blemishes. This will look real nice. You want to go with mainly red and yellow like the picture or you want other colors?"

"Red and yellow will be fine, letters in blue though."

"Sure thing. I'd do it now, but you bleed too much if you're drunk. Blood's too thin. More chance of infection."

"I'm not that drunk."

"We'll wait a bit just to be sure. O.K.?"

"You're the boss," I replied.

"Damn straight. And don't you forget it, son."

An hour later I was tilted back in an adjustable chair with my arm propped on a device made to rest my arms. Bug shaved my arm, and coated it with alcohol swipes. He put on gloves and pulled out a pack of fresh needles. I watched fascinated as he made his preparations and got out the inks for the tat.

"Normally, I would do this in two stages, but Cooner tells me you're pulling out today."

"Yeah, and I don't know when I'll be back."

"Well, we'll do it all, but that will make you a bit sore for a while."

"I'll live with it."

He nodded and began, tracing the outlines first after tracing the ink onto my skin. Then he picked up his needles and began embedding the ink into skin. It hurt at first and I grimaced but then I got used to the steady stinging sensation and my arm went a little numb. I began to sweat and my legs quivered a bit and then I felt a rush to my groin. I hardened to an embarrassing point and bit down on a groan. What the hell?

Cooner chuckled from where he sat in a plastic chair across the room reading 'Truck and Driver' magazine. "Gets the old boxer snake jumpin', don't it?"

"Jesus!" I muttered.

He chuckled again. "No need to be embarrassed. It happens. All those endorphins releasing in the body, rushing to the site to kill the pain."

"Perfectly natural," Bug replied.

"Still embarrassing," I muttered, squirming slightly in my seat.

"Stay still!" Bug barked, raising his needle gun.

"Sorry."

"Let's take a break." He set down the needle gun and motioned me up.

"Go use the lav and get a drink of water, then we'll continue." He placed a piece of gauze on my tat and taped it down gently.

I nodded and walked awkwardly to the bathroom. Christ, I didn't ever remember getting hard so fast. My balls ached for release and my erection pushed painfully on my zipper. I carefully unzipped my jeans and peeled them away from my front. I pulled my cock out and realized there was no way I was going to pee with a hard on like this. Gritting my teeth, I jerked myself hard, hoping I could get this over with quickly.

I pictured Scully's berry red lips wrapping around the head of my cock, sucking. In my dreams ... she always swallowed. I grunted, "Awww, Uggg!" and ejaculated into the toilet, spraying some on the lid as I pictured her swallowing as I sprayed into her mouth. "Shit," I muttered and then relaxed, relieving myself finally. I wondered how Dr. Blockhead had been able to handle it all.

I cleaned up my mess with paper towels and splashed water on my face, using the plastic cup there to take a drink, wondering how many other mouths had used the cup. I shrugged and placed it back on the sink.

I rearranged my clothes, making sure my Sig was covered, and went back out into the main room and took my seat in the chair again. I was glad I'd worn the sweat shirt. I was baggy enough that I could pull the sleeve up and didn't have to take it off. Another hour and we were finished. My skin was burning, I had another hard on, and I was gritting my teeth as he smeared antiseptic gel all over the tat and placed gauze on it. I paid with my credit card with the name of Marty Tanner. To do otherwise would be suspicious and I didn't have the cash. I'd have to reimburse the Bureau, that's all.

He droned on about care of the tat and handed me printed instructions on cleaning and caring for it and sent us on our way with a tube of antibiotic ointment.

I glanced at my watch and started. Geez, I'd been gone a lot longer than I realized. It was nearly 9:00 AM. Scully would probably be wondering where I was by now. I reached for my cell phone, hanging on the opposite side of my belt from my Sig and then stopped.

Screw it. Let her see how it feels, I thought. Let her wonder. I'll be back in a few minutes. "Need to get back, Cooner. I appreciate this."

"No problem, buddy. Maybe we'll run across each other again sometime."

"I hope so," I said as he drove back toward the truck stop.

We pulled in and drove down the row of trucks till I pointed mine out.

Cooner stopped and peered out the window as I turned to him. "That your wife?" he asked.

"That's her, looking madder than a hornet's nest."

"Damn, you're a lucky man, Marty."

I smiled. "Yeah, I am." I paused and then looked down at her scowling at me. "I might not be feeling that way in another minute or so."

He chuckled. "No matter what she says, whether it's her fault or not ... say you're sorry."

I glanced at him and realized you really couldn't judge a book by its cover. He was a good man. I stuck out my hand and he shook it. I opened the door, taking a deep breath and climbed down onto the pavement to meet my fate.

The alcohol was purging itself from my system and my head felt wrapped in cotton wool. The pressure behind my eyes was tremendous and I needed to find my sunglasses. I really wasn't up for this fight, but I knew we had to have it.

I wondered if she'd found the note.

XXXXXXXXXX

"Damn, Damn, Double Damn, Triple Damn, HELL!" I cursed as I paced back and forth in front of our rig, waiting for Mulder. I was alternating between thoughts of killing him and thoughts of how I was going to handcuff him to me so that he never got out of my sight again.

The anger and pain that I felt last night was gone. Poof! One phone call and all that was left was regret, and fear.

I had cried myself to sleep twice last night, so sure that Mulder had betrayed me. Now I couldn't believe my own actions. I alternated between anger at and fear for Mulder, and rage at myself for my foolish assumptions.

Mulder had never given me a reason to doubt his actions towards me before yesterday. Why did I pounce on the very first suspicious thing he did as proof that he was playing head games with me? I didn't really want to examine my reasons for acting the way I had all night, but I was awake until 4:00 AM this morning, doing just that. Memories that I had tried successfully to suppress for years came crashing back.

Why did I believe my eyes, rather than asking Mulder what was going on? Why didn't I give him a chance to explain? When have I ever accepted anything without hard proof before? I tried to call him and ask him to come up to the room so that we could talk about everything, but he wasn't answering his phone. I was terrified that I would lose my courage and not be able to discuss this with him tomorrow.

'He must really be upset with me,' thought the rational side of my mind.

'Or he was still screwing his little whore,' said the green-eyed monster that had taken up residence in my brain.

I finally forced myself to fall asleep. Thinking about it any more would drive me crazy. I would talk to Mulder the next day and give him a chance to explain his actions and my reaction to the whole situation. That is, if he was still speaking to me.

I was pulled out of a sound sleep by the ringing of my cell phone. I grabbed it, "Sc... Dana Tanner."

[Agent Scully?]

"Yes, sir?" I was immediately awake.

[What is going on out there? You two are on an undercover assignment. You're supposed to be truck drivers. Why are you still in the same town this morning as you were yesterday?]

"Well, sir, our load is not scheduled to be dropped until day after tomorrow and we decided not to push it," I tried to convince him as well as myself.

[That's fine, Agent, but what is Mulder thinking? You are supposed to be regular truck drivers, not some evangelists cruising for lost souls to save. Did Mulder get that girl to the shelter?]

"Uh, yes sir, I believe so." Oh no! Shelter? He'd said it wasn't what I thought, didn't he? No, I'd never given him a chance to explain anything. I'd just assumed the worst and cut him off at the knees. He did say he didn't sleep with anyone and seemed puzzled as to why I would think that. I'd thought it was an act. He was telling the truth. Oh God, he took that girl to a shelter?

[What do you mean, you 'believe so'?] The bite in his words made me want to say ouch.

"Well, I spent the night in a motel room at the truck stop, Sir, and Mulder didn't." That sounded great.

[Agent Scully, I agreed to allow you two to be recruited for this assignment because I was under the impression that you would stick together. I am counting on you to keep Mulder in line, is that clear? No more side trips to help wayward souls,] he said through clenched teeth.

"Yes, sir," I said.

[Then maybe you can explain to me the meaning of the twelve hundred dollar charge that just rang up on his 'Martin Tanner' credit card from the 'Beauty Mark Tattoo Parlor'!] Skinner was yelling now.

I held the phone away from my ear and replied, "Well, sir, since I'm not with Agent Mulder right now, I can't give you a definitive answer on the charge, but if I were to make an educated guess, I would say that it was probably for an informant, sir."

Skinner inhaled for so long, I thought his lungs would explode, [And you and Agent Mulder discussed approaching informants, Agent Scully?]

"No sir, we didn't. But I know that Agent Mulder wouldn't do anything to jeopardize the operation this early in the assignment, sir. If he did approach an informant, he would do it without blowing his. . .our cover."

[I want you two to quit fooling around and get on with this assignment. Is that clear, Agent Scully?] he barely waited for my affirmative answer before he continued. [And tell Agent Mulder that if he is not able to prove that the TWELVE HUNDRED DOLLARS he charged was a justifiable cost of solving this case, he will be paying it back to the Bureau out of his paycheck until he retires! Understood?]

"Yes, sir. I'll make sure that he gets the message." Skinner hung up before I could ask him how he knew we were still in the Memphis area and how he heard about the charge to the card so quickly.

I showered and rushed down to the truck, suddenly anxious about Mulder.

He wasn't there.

As soon as I opened the door of the cab, I could smell the onions in the salad that sat wilting on the dash. Two cups of iced tea and the remains of his chicken salad sandwich added to the mess. I had climbed in on the driver's side because it was closest to the door of the motel.

I knew without looking that Mulder wasn't in the bunk, but I forced myself to check anyway.

He had been there. His dirty shirt was still on the top of the covers, but there was no sign of anyone else having been in there with him.

I glanced around the cab at the mess he had left and spotted a sheet of paper on the passenger side seat. I didn't want to touch it. I knew what it would say.

I read the short note and accepted once again what a fool I had been yesterday. I thought about my actions all the time I was cleaning up the cab. Telling Mulder why I acted as I did was going to be harder than telling him I loved him for the first time. I took out the trash and made up the bunk. I checked the log book and saw Mulder's entries.

I tried to keep myself busy so that I wouldn't let my imagination take over and drive me crazy, but I ran out of things to do.

I climbed out of the cab and started pacing around the rig. I saw another driver pounding on his tires and remembered Dean's training on checking the pressure of the tires, for both tractor and trailer. I got out the gauge from the maintenance kit and checked all the tires.

That was done too quickly. I was back to pacing. I heard another rig pull up and stop in front of ours. I looked up to see if it was another one of my brother-truckers stopping to ask if the 'little lady' needed any help. I plastered a frown on my face to discourage whoever it was and nearly froze in my tracks.

It was Mulder. I could see him nodding at the driver and grinning. As he climbed down, his grin faded and he got a pained expression on his face, squinting as the light hurt his eyes. He was drunk, or had been a short time ago.

I could smell him before he opened his mouth. The alcohol and cigarette smoke stench was clinging to his clothes and oozing from his pores.

He gave me a loopy smile and turned to wave at the driver who had dropped him off, nearly falling while trying to complete these two actions at the same time.

With the carefully exaggerated movements of the recently drunk, he walked the few feet between us, stopping when the toes of his boots were touching mine. He swayed back and forth, not speaking, just staring into my eyes.

"You still love me," he finally said.

"Mulder," I started.

"Don't deny it. You love me and I love you," his normally sweet breath had the sour odor of the numerous beers he'd consumed during the night.

I took two steps back from him, needing the fresh air. He crowded me back against the grill of the Kenworth, raising his arms to either side of my body to trap me.

"I love you and you love me, Dana. We have to work this out. You can't leave me. I don't know who I'd be without you." His words were only slightly slow, not slurred. He wasn't drunk after all. "I don't know what you thought I was doing yesterday ... but I would never hurt you. We have to talk. No running away from me."

"I'm not going anywhere, Mulder, but you are."

"Nope," he said with a mulish look on his face. "Not leaving you either. Not letting you out of my sight again."

Two fellow truckers, walking towards their rig, stopped and asked, "Need any help, ma'am?"

I smiled and shook my head no before Mulder could turn around and challenge them for interrupting us.

I touched his forearm to bring his attention back to me. I sighed. He didn't seem to be this out of it when he first got here. Maybe he was just hung over and punch drunk from lack of sleep. I wondered if he'd slept at all. I decided that it was finally catching up with him.

"Mulder, you are going to march right into the trucker's lounge and take a shower. I don't want you to come out until you no longer stink." I ordered as I ducked under his arm. "Stand right there while I get you some clean clothes and your kit," I said in a softer tone of voice.

"Can you find my sunglasses too?" he asked feebly, shielding his eyes from the minimal glare of the morning. Oh yeah, this was going to be a doozie.

I quickly gathered his things and walked him towards the showers. I left him there and went to the coffee shop to get a supply of coffee, aspirin and bottled water. Between the headache he was going to have and the pain from the mysterious and expensive tattoo I was guessing he had somewhere under his clothing, he was going to need them.

I got the giant, economy sized bottle of aspirin and asked the waitress to fill the stainless steel thermos that I bought before I headed back out to the truck.

My old friend Tom called to me from the doorway of the trucker's lounge.

"Hey, Red! I think your man's sick. He's pukin' his guts out in the shower. You want me to call a doctor?"

"I am a ..." I stopped just in time. "He doesn't need a doctor. He's just hung over. Thanks, Tom," I said and dumped my purchases on his desk as I changed directions to go check on Mulder.

As quickly as I could, I got Mulder cleaned up and dragged him out to the rig. He was barely able to crawl up into the bunk with my help.

I got him to take a couple aspirins and drink an entire bottle of water to replace the fluids he'd lost. I tucked him into the bunk and put up the safety bar. I placed the trash basket, lined with plastic bags, beside his head. I closed the curtain after I turned on the vent for fresh air.

I climbed into the seat of the rig and drove down the ramp to the interstate after I logged my time of departure in the written log and on the satellite. We would talk when he felt better. Thank God he was all right and sporting nothing more than a hangover ... oh, and a tattoo.

XXXXXXXXXXX

PART 8 (PG-13)
SOMEWHERE ON THE INTERSTATE
5 HOURS LATER

I woke up as I felt and heard the rig slowing down. Scully was driving. I struggled to sit up in the bunk and felt the contents of my skull swirl dangerously in a pirouette. I moaned and grabbed my head as though it would stop the movement.

Scully raised her voice above the roar of the engine as she downshifted. "Mandatory Weigh Station, Mulder. I have to stop. I need to pee anyway and I could use some lunch. How are you feeling?"

"Uhhhhhh," was the most intelligent response I could muster.

"Look in the shaving kit on the sink. I put the bottle of aspirin in there. There's bottled water in the fridge," she added.

"Thanks," I murmured, fumbling to retrieve the aspirin and spilling several when we hit a speed bump and the cap flew off as my thumb was jammed under the notch.

"Shit!" I grumbled. I looked at the three stray aspirin on the floor and kicked them to the side. I wasn't about to bend over and get them. That would be a very bad idea right now. I shook four aspirin out and recapped the bottle, tossing it toward my shaving kit and succeeding only in slam dunking it into the little sink. I winced at the
clatter it made. I shrugged, feeling the stiffness in my neck as I did and nearly moaned again.

I managed to get a bottle of water out and downed the aspirin. I saw my sunglasses hanging from a Velcro strap on the side of the wall and pulled them down. Scully parked near the gas pumps and I gingerly made my way up front, plopping formlessly into the passenger seat and moaning as the light sent daggers into my head even through the sunglasses. I pulled the sun visor down.

"Bad, huh?" she asked.

I figured it was a rhetorical question. "What now?" I asked.

"I'm going to get gas and then some food. Then I have to go over there and get weighed and checked in."

"Right. Want me to get the food?"

"Can you walk?" she asked, a slightly sarcastic tone to her voice. I turned my head, slowly, and looked at her.

"I'm sorry, Scully."

"For what?"

"For not finding you before I took that girl to the shelter. I assume you found my note ... eventually."

She sighed heavily. "Yeah, I'm sorry too, Mulder."

"I should have found you ... "

"It's over."

"I don't think so."

"We'll talk later, O.K.? Let's get this part over with. Skinner called this morning and he's not a happy camper. We'll talk about that too. He wants an explanation for the $1,200 charge on the credit card."

"News travels fast," I muttered.

She pulled some money out of her pocket.

"I have money."

"Get me an egg and cheese sandwich and whatever you want."

"Sure."

I sighed as I opened the door and slid carefully to the ground, the landing alone jarring my muscles. God, everything ached, from the tip of my toes to the crown of my head. Even my freakin' hair hurt. I walked gingerly into the little rest stop and went straight for the bathroom. I relieved myself and splashed some water on my face.

As I looked up and turned to get some paper towels my eyes met in the mirror. God, I was a sight. Five o'clock shadow covered my lower face, my eyelids were swollen and puffy, my hair was sticking up in about hundred different directions.

I wet my hands and ran them through my hair, letting the water trickle down my back, not caring that my tee shirt was getting wet. When I got my hair under some semblance of control, I walked out into the restaurant and ordered our sandwiches at the counter. The smell of egg and cheese hit my nose as I picked up the bag and my stomach rolled. I got toast and coffee for myself. I didn't think my stomach could handle anything else at this point.

By the time I returned to the truck, Scully was in the driver's seat and ready to pull into the weigh station portion of the rest area. I handed her the bag wordlessly after pulling out our coffees and she set it on the dash.

She pulled away from the pumps and expertly maneuvered the rig around the lane leading to the weigh station. She pulled onto the scale and jumped out, heading for the booth. 'I should go with her,' I thought, but couldn't bring myself to move. Instead, I dug the toast out of the bag, wanting to eat it before it got cold.

I bit and chewed slowly, feeling my head tame down to a low roar. The aspirin must be taking effect. I chugged some more water, feeling completely dehydrated.

She returned and picked up the log book, making some notations, absently saying, "Everything's fine. You want to keep going, or would you like to rest for a while? I've driven for five hours. We could take a four hour break and hit it for another five."

"Sounds good. Hopefully, I'll have this head under control by then and can drive."

"If you can't, I'll drive again. I don't mind."

"Where are we headed?" I asked.

"After we drop this trailer, we're picking up another load headed for Utah."

"Utah?" I don't know why that surprised me. All my synapses were not firing together this morning. The brain fuzzies, I called this type of hangover, where focus was nearly impossible for more than a few seconds. Self-induced ADHD.

"Yup. Home of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir," she chirped, entirely too cheery for this time of day.

I attempted a smile, "Ever see them?"

"Once, on TV."

"They really are amazing."

"Let me park this thing so I can eat."

I nodded and she pulled around in the back, finding a parking space near the end where she could pull in instead of backing up. She parked and grabbed her sandwich, ripping open the wrapper. She bit and chewed slowly, only I knew she didn't have a hang over.

"What happened?" she asked between bites.

"Now you want to hear my explanation?" I asked, more testily than I intended.

"I said I was sorry, Mulder. I let past experiences color my judgment and I jumped to conclusions. It won't happen again." She paused, "Just tell me what happened."

I stared at her for a moment, before starting, "I was heading inside to take a leak and this girl came up to me asking me for a date."

She grimaced.

"I knew immediately she was a prostitute."

"Lot lizard. Appropriate name."

"I told her no, thank you."

"What happened then?"

"She grabbed my arm and told me she hadn't eaten since the day before, basically offering to ... service me for food."

"Shit."

"Yeah, I could blow off a little saucy tart, but I couldn't see her go hungry, so I told her I would just get her some food. I went in and got her a couple of sandwiches. I told her to get in the truck, it was cold out."

"Yeah, and she certainly wasn't wearing much, was she?"

"No, she wasn't."

"Were you tempted?" she asked, her voice almost a whisper.

I waited until she raised her eyes to mine. "Not even a little," I answered honestly. I realized I had my sun glasses on and she couldn't see my eyes.

I took them off, squinting briefly but feeling my head getting better. I met her eyes again and repeated, "Not even a little, Scully."

She hung her head, and took another bite of her egg sandwich, her eyes suspiciously wet. "She was a kid, for Christ's sake, sixteen years old. Said she'd been doing this for two years. Two years! Can you imagine?" She didn't say anything so I continued. "So I called Skinner and got the name and address of the nearest shelter for teens. As luck would have it, there was one right there in Memphis. I called them and they had a bed for her. So I ... wrote you a note and took her there. And then I came back to find you gone."

"I'm sorry," she said again softly.

I felt a wave of anger purge my aching head and I nearly shouted, "You're sorry? Jesus Christ, Scully. I came back and couldn't find you. I nearly went ballistic. I screamed at those poor people in the coffee shop trying to find you. All these things went through my head. You'd gotten grabbed by one of these assholes ... or heaven forbid..." I swallowed harshly. "The hijackers ... God damn it!" I cried out, smashing my fist onto the console.

She jumped and said again, "I'm sorry."

I turned sideways in the seat and leaned into her. She pressed herself into the back of the seat to get away from my prying eyes. "I... couldn't ... find ... you. Do you know how FUCKING SCARED I WAS?" I shouted, wincing as my head reminded me that it was still quite delicate.

Her face crumpled like she was going to cry and I instantly regretted shouting at her. "I'm sorry, Scully. I didn't mean to yell."

"It won't happen again, Mulder," she said softly. "Is that the only thing you're angry about?"

"Yes ... no," I admitted.

"Might as well get it all out," she said, followed by a resigned sigh.

I stared at her and leaned back away from her, resting my head on the cool glass of the window. It actually felt good to my aching head. I'd hurt my own ears with my yelling. I rubbed my hands over my face. I cleared my throat, determined not to raise my voice. When I finally spoke, my voice was gravel toned but not loud. "How could you ... "

She looked at me but said nothing.

I took a deep breath. "How could you think I'd sleep with a hooker?" I paused. "After all we've been through? After these last few weeks, telling you how I feel about you? How could you think I would ...betray you like that?"

I was embarrassed to find my bottom lip quivering and I bit it with my upper teeth. She still hadn't answered me. I added, "That hurt, Scully. That you would have so little faith in me ..." I nearly whispered as my voice trailed off.

I felt the sting of tears and brushed them away angrily. I didn't want to cry in front of her. Shit. I put my face in my hands and rested my elbows on my knees. A second later, I heard her wrapper rustling and she was holding my wrists, moving my hands away from my face. I looked down, not wanting to look at her right now, embarrassed that her opinion meant so much to me ... embarrassed that I was so hurt by her actions.

She gently leaned me backwards and crawled into my lap right there in the seat, straddling my thighs. She cupped my face and made me look at her. "I thought about the same thing last night. I asked myself over and over how I could dismiss the trust and belief I have in you... in our partnership... our relationship," she paused.

I grunted to let her know that I was waiting for her to continue.

"Mulder, did you know that my mother lost a baby after Charlie? It was a boy and it nearly tore my family apart."

Her sudden change of subject was confusing, but I waited to hear her out.

"It was the summer I was thirteen. Mom was as surprised as the rest of us, but Dad had come home after a long time away and number five was soon on his way. The pregnancy was hard on Mom from the first. She was older and she had morning sickness for the first four months. Bill, Missy and I were shipped off to summer camp. Charlie couldn't go because he had just broken his leg. We all thought he was the lucky one. Dad was home and he was going to have time with him all summer." She paused and sighed.

"We weren't called home when Mom lost the baby. Dad said that she needed to rest. By the time we got home, Dad was gone, his ship had left on maneuvers. Mom was sad, but seemed to be all right."

I didn't see what this had to do with her lack of trust, but I nodded to encourage her to continue.

"Like I said, Mom was all right, but Charlie wasn't. He was sullen and withdrawn and had nightmares. I was always Charlie's favorite and one night the dreams were so bad, he crawled into bed with me and cried like a baby. The whole story came out. I was shocked."

Scully looked out the window and then back at me. I could see her pain and I wanted to tell her it was all right. She didn't have to continue, but I knew she needed to make me understand her reaction.

"Mom had lost the baby because she had an infection. A STD that my father had given her. When she got home from the hospital, they had fought over my father's betrayal. He volunteered to go out on maneuvers to get away from home. Charlie was the only one of us kids that knew that we might never be a family again," her voice broke.

"Oh, God, Scully. I'm sorry. I never got to meet your father, but you and your mother always speak of him with so much love that it's hard to believe that he ever betrayed your mother's trust."

"My mom does remember him with love, Mulder. She was able to forgive him, to work through the pain. She joined him in Hawaii for a two week vacation just before school started. They spent the time at a retreat for Catholics working on their relationship. She and my father came out of the tragedy stronger and more in love than ever."

"How about Charlie?" I asked.

"Charlie never forgave my father. He left home as soon as he graduated high school, put himself through college and never came home when my dad was there again. He didn't even come for Dad's memorial service." Her voice was barely a whisper.

"And you?"

"I couldn't accept the fact that my father had slept with another woman, and brought home an STD. I was shocked and couldn't believe that my Ahab would do something like that. Just before Dad came home that Christmas, I confronted my mother and made her tell me the truth. She was so strong. She didn't make excuses for my father. She told me the whole story. I was furious with Ahab. I raged at my mother. Unlike Charlie, I couldn't hold back my disgust and anger." Scully smiled at me. "When I called him a few choice names, she slapped my face. It was the first time that my mother had ever hit me."

"Then what happened?"

Scully was quiet for a long moment before saying, "Oh, you know. She cried. I cried. We talked and when everything was settled, I was able to forgive him, but I never felt the respect for him that I had previously felt. He was no longer my knight in shining armor. He was just a man. A man in love with his wife but unable to resist temptation when he'd gone too long without sex."

"Is that why you believed that I would sleep with a hooker?" I understood her pain, but not how she could think that about me.

"It's not just you, Mulder. I think my fear and distrust in male monogamy has destroyed all the relationships I've had during my entire adult life."

"You don't trust men?" I asked stunned.

She contemplated my question for a moment and then replied, "It's not that I don't trust men, I just don't trust them to be faithful to me."

"Scully! This is you and me we're talking about. We've been partners for over 6 years..."

"I don't know if that is the whole answer, or if I even have a good answer, Mulder. Maybe it's because ... I thought it was all too good to be true. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop ... to find out ... it couldn't be ..."

"What couldn't be?" I asked.

"You ... in love with me. And I was putting you off, I wouldn't have sex yet and I thought ... I frustrated you and maybe in the back of my head I thought that ... you needed relief ... just like my ... father..." I must have looked incredulous. "I guess it's always been one of my
fears."

Now I was truly confused. "What do you mean?" I sounded as puzzled as I felt.

"Maybe ... I've been putting you off because ... I'm afraid."

"Of me?" I asked, astonished.

"No ... that I'll disappoint you, I won't be enough for you ... enough to hold you."

I wrapped my arms around her waist and pulled her against me, feeling her soft breasts pillow up against my chest. I buried my nose in her hair and whispered in her ear. "Scully, you could never disappoint me. Jesus, woman. Have I not made it clear? How much I love you? How much ... it's a miracle to me that you're even still with me, let alone ... any of the rest. No matter how shy or clumsy we are the first time ... it will be perfect, Scully."

"How can you say that?"

"Because I'll be with you."

Tears did come now, streaking down her cheeks. I raised my hands and wiped them with my thumbs. "Believe in me, Scully." I kissed her gently with no tongue and she kissed me softly in return. "I felt like such a loser. I went and got drunk ... met this trucker ... nice guy."

Her hands slid up my arm and hit the bandage on my tattoo and I hissed in pain. She lurched back and I had to grab for her or she would have toppled over backwards off my lap. "Oh, I'm sorry!" she said.

I was wearing a long sleeve chamois shirt. "Get up for a sec."

She frowned but backed off my lap and sat sideways in the driver's seat. "Let's get in the sleeper."

Her eyebrows raised in question. I loved it when she did that. I felt myself smiling at her goofily. "No, I'm not propositioning you, Agent Scully. I want to show you something and I have to take my shirt off. Unless you'd like me to give the public a free show?" I teased.

She smiled then. "No way."

We climbed into the back and flopped the bunk down into its double size, which was questionable at best. We perched on the edge as she closed the curtain and I took off my shirt. I turned and held my left bicep up to her. "Take it off."

She gingerly reached out and pried up the edge of the tape with her fingernail. "Go ahead. I have more gauze and antibiotic ointment. I need to put some more on anyway and a fresh bandage." There was blood dotting the gauze and she ripped it off in a quick movement, making me yelp.

"Sorry!" she hissed.

I nodded. Better quick than drawn out. She stared at the tattoo. It was very colorful and covered my entire bicep, leaving only my shoulder and elbow uncovered. There were little scabs dotting the surface of the tat but you could easily see what it was.

She sucked in a breath and leaned close, her breath stirring the hairs on my forearm and making me shiver. She smiled softly and then looked up at me, her blue eyes swimming with wetness again. "It's beautiful, Mulder." She paused and then said lightly, "Skinner is going to be so pissed."

We both laughed then and I said, "I'll wire the money to the Bureau. I intended to pay it back all along, but I didn't have the cash and I couldn't use my own credit card without blowing my cover. I didn't think that would be wise."

"I'm surprised you could think that straight."

"Why?" I asked, immediately realizing how dumb that question was.

She raised one eyebrow again and said, "You really tied on one, didn't you?"

"Yeah, but I was relatively sober by the time I got this." She looked at me again. "It's us, Scully," I said quietly. "It reminded me of us."

She nodded and licked her lips, her expression so tender. She leaned in and kissed me gently and whispered, "I believe, Mulder. I believe."

I smiled and then kissed her back, this time with more determination. She moaned into my mouth and I felt my groin stir. We reluctantly parted and she said, "Let me fix this up."

She was quick and efficient as only a doctor can be as she carefully applied the antibiotic gel to the entire tattoo, obviously admiring it as she did, careful not to press and cause me pain. Then she securely taped more gauze all over it.

Satisfied she said, "O.K., put your shirt back on."

I waggled my eyebrows at her. "I don't want to."

She looked at my chest and sighed. "You have a nice chest, Mulder."

I felt warmth steal through said chest at her open admiration. I sat up a little straighter and said, "Let's take a nap."

"A nap?"

"Yeah, you remember those, don't you? My head could use a couple more hours sleep. You've been driving for five hours and it's tiring, especially since we're not used to it yet."

She blinked slowly. "I'm am a little tired, especially after eating."

I stood up and shucked off my pants, leaving my boxers on. I didn't want to push it. I crawled in and whipped the covers back, patting the bed. She chuckled and shed her flannel shirt and jeans. I sucked in a breath as she stood there in nothing but a bra and panties. She blushed and I murmured in a voice husky with arousal, "You are so beautiful."

She swallowed. "We're just going to sleep, right?" she asked tentatively.

I smiled at her. "Just sleep. Come on. I want to hold you, feel you against me. Get in here and we'll snuggle up."

She still looked tentative but she sat on the edge of the bed and slid under the covers with her back to me. I was on my right side which was convenient, because I didn't think I could lay on the left side with the tattoo. It was still pretty sore and probably would be for several days.

The heat rose in the cocoon under the blanket and we both sighed as she relaxed and her body fell against mine. There wasn't a lot of room despite it begin spacious for a sleeper, even lying on our sides. I spooned up behind her and tugged her into my body. She felt so small and warm and soft. I buried my nose in her hair again and kissed the nap of her neck.

She shivered, "Mmuullddeeerrr," she murmured in that low alto that drove me nuts.

I felt my erection return, not quite full but definitely noticeable. She stiffened. "Ignore it, Scully," I advised.

"Hard to ignore."

"Try, we need the sleep. I just can't control the little beast."

She chuckled. "It doesn't feel so little."

I chuckled with her and snuggled deeper under the covers, hugging her tight. She reached up and set the alarm and we drifted off to sleep. I think we were both emotionally exhausted as well as physically tired.

I was almost asleep when I heard her whisper, "Feels good."

I hummed in the back of my throat. "Yeah," I whispered. "I love you, Sc ... Dana."

"Love you too," she said softly, not bothering with the pesky name thing.

I smiled as she fell asleep, assured that we were going to be O.K. I still stung from her lack of faith in me, but I would get over it. I'd just have to prove myself. I was used to that.

Despite my self-righteous indignation at her lack of faith, her story explained a lot. Her father was her hero throughout her whole childhood. Finding out that he was human and capable of betrayal, even under the circumstances of separation, must have been an awful blow to her perceptions of relationships. If her father could weaken... any man could weaken. So she'd grown up believing that all men, if alone enough or denied relief of sexual release, would eventually turn elsewhere, despite being in love.

I understood it, but I was still hurt. Intellectually, I could understand her deep seated fear that no one was immune to the wiles of a sexy and willing woman, especially if they weren't getting any, so to speak. I remembered Cooner saying that the reason most men slept with hookers was simply because they weren't having sex at home. He'd also pointed out that the reason he was an exception was because his wife 'didn't give him a reason to go anywhere else'. This type of thinking was probably exactly what was going on with Scully, only in reverse.

She'd been postponing our intimacy, putting me off, exciting me and then putting an end to our petting sessions. While I did find that frustrating, I would simply wait until I was alone and jerk off to relieve the lingering tension from those encounters. Yes, it was becoming increasingly frustrating. However, I was simply incapable of betraying Scully. I didn't want anyone else. I was so fixated on her that even a beautiful 16 year old in a skimpy outfit held no appeal for me. I hadn't even felt a stirring of desire when I looked at that child. Because that's what I had seen ... a child. Not a whore, not an attractive young woman ... I'd seen a child, and that held no appeal for me.

Scully was the only woman that lit my fire. I didn't quite know how to make her believe that, but I had to try. For one thing, it wasn't like we were separated for long periods of time like her mother and father were. That was one major difference right there that I would point out to her at the first opportunity. One week without Scully and I was climbing the walls. I could never endure a separation of months. I'd lose my mind. And this was before we had sex. After we had sex ... forget it.

Despite my taste in videos, I was not a promiscuous person, and never had been. I didn't have any sexual hang ups, but I'd never been one to enjoy a one-night stand. My one indiscretion during the vampire case had left me feeling ill and full of disgust for myself. Where most men might have felt the conquering hero, I'd felt only self-loathing and a sense of having betrayed the one I love ... and she wasn't even there.

At the time, I hadn't known if she was ever coming back, and yet ... I still couldn't get over the feeling that I'd betrayed her. I vowed then that it would never happen again. I would find her and I would never touch another woman again. If she was dead, maybe I'd have to rethink that, but otherwise, I was going to remain loyal to my love for her ... even if she didn't return it.

XXXXXXXXXX

PART 9 (R)
TWO WEEKS LATER
I15, Between Salt Lake City and Las Vegas

I forgot how luxurious it felt to sleep in the arms of a man that loves you. Mulder's warmth and scent and body surrounded me, making me feel cherished and completely boneless. When we slept together, I woke to the most wonderful feeling of completeness I had ever experienced in my life.

I had found my other half and he fit all my broken edges perfectly. He and I made one whole, seamless soul. His body was large and strong and almost overpowering in its raw sexual appeal. I knew that if he made one move towards consummating our relationship I would be lost.

But so far he hadn't. And that was beginning to worry me. I must be going crazy. I worried when he tried to move our relationship along and I worried when he gave me the space I told him I needed. It didn't help that I was in a constant state of arousal. Poor man couldn't win. My breasts actually ached at times, needing his touch, his kiss, his tongue. I had taken to wearing a sports bra and panty liners all the time. A serious case of diaper rash was nothing to joke about when you drive a big rig for hours at a time.

He had made it a point for us to sleep together as often as possible, but had not interrupted our driving and delivery schedule to enforce it. Many mornings I woke up with the scent of Mulder covering my body, but no Mulder in sight. He had taken to working out in the mornings. If there was a public workout room where we were stopped, he would use the equipment and take a short run. If not, he would run for miles before I was even awake.

I knew he was doing this to work off the sexual tension he felt and I respected it. I also respected what the constant work outs and the demands of trucking had done for his body. What was absolutely making me crazy was that he always showered or cleaned up before he got back in the truck.

I had never been able to resist a clean, sexy Mulder. A sweat hog I could resist. But, he was just so... lickable, when he climbed into the cab all clean and still damp from his shower. I knew I was losing my mind. I needed to concentrate on this assignment. When the case was solved... well, work before pleasure.

We'd been on the road almost a month now. There had been another hijacking of a Global-Tech truck, but the drivers had not been found. Skinner thought that this one was an inside job. Mulder had his own ideas. We actually met the two guys that had disappeared at the Nashville yard, and we both agreed that they didn't fit the profile of undercover operatives.

Mulder's theory was that we were being watched. I agreed. I knew that he was the one with the 'Spooky' sense, but I had a feeling he was right. We knew that someone had been in our truck. That meant that there was a master B&E artist out there or someone from GlobalTech had passed along a duplicate set of the keys to our cab.

I believed we came back to the rig before the perp could search thoroughly. Mulder thought he saw a light in the cab and we ran back to the truck instead of going into the diner. The passenger side door was not shut all the way or locked. I had been driving and I know I heard Mulder slam and lock the door when we left for the facilities. The personal laptop we brought to use for case notes was on the console.

We both thought that it was a spy. A thief could have lifted the laptop and still gotten away. We decided that we needed to do more than encode and put a password on our files. After discussing it for a while, Mulder had the idea to use the guys. He called and asked them what they suggested.

We were both surprised when Byers came up with the idea of a diary.

He asked us to give them a few days and he and the guys would develop files that we could download into the computer that would make it look as if it were Dana Tanner's personal diary. Our data about the case could be entered and encrypted by a special program that they would install that would turn our data into personal day to day facts. They would even post date it so that no one would ever be able to prove that it wasn't at least two years old... the length of the Tanner marriage.

A couple days later we contacted them again and they said they were ready. They needed us to check into a motel and use the land line to make the connection instead of the wireless we were using.

Both Mulder and I were glad to comply. It had been ten days since we had done more than sleep in shifts and in the crowded bunk together. We both were looking forward to a night in a motel. We pulled off the interstate near San Antonio and drove to an area that was a mix of commercial and residential buildings. We didn't want to stay at the truck stop motel, but we didn't want to get too far out into the county and look conspicuous.

We drove by several 'No Vacancy' signs until we found a decent looking motel with rooms available. Mulder went in to register. While he was gone, I gathered up our overnight kits and fresh clothing.

When he came back out he had a little grin and I knew he was going to tease me.

"Bad luck, Dana," he said as he grabbed the duffle I tossed down to him. "The only rooms they had left were singles."

"Marty! We can't sleep in a single bed together," I stated flatly.

"What's the matter, Dana, afraid I'll jump your bones?" he said with a big grin.

I couldn't tell him how good that sounded to me, so I said, "No, afraid you'll hog the covers."

"No sweat, Ladybird. It has one bed, but it's a king. I meant single room, not single bed," he grinned at me over his sunglasses. He was teasing me again and I decided to play.

"Phoenix, I asked you not to call me that name," I shot back.

"Hey, I didn't start it. You did. The first time you responded to Cooner on the CB when he shouted for you, it was official." Mulder sounded pleased with himself.

"You responding to Cooner calling you Phoenix is your business. I only answered because he was so insistent," I teased.

"But you did answer, Dana and now it's too late. You're stuck with the handle Ladybird for the rest of your days."

"Whatever," I threw down the overnight kit and started to climb down.

Mulder placed his hand on my ankle to stop me. "Jump," he said.

His voice was low and sexy and entirely too enticing.

"I can climb down by myself." I avoided looking into his eyes as I spoke.

"Jump, Dana. I'll catch you."

It was a test. Since our misunderstanding about Meghan, Mulder had been giving me space, but every once in a while he would throw me off balance with a word or demand that tested our...my trust in our relationship.

I stared at him for only a second before replying, "Here I come, ready or not." And I jumped down into his arms.

"Oh, I'm ready Dana," he whispered into my ear as his strong arms caught me. "I'll always be there to catch you."

He nuzzled my neck and placed a soft kiss on my cheek and then let me slide down his body to stand on my own two feet.

I didn't know if my sigh was one of relief or dismay as he released me and turned to grab the bags.

"I forgot the laptop," I said as I turned to climb back up for it.

"Forget it. I'm going to refuel before we settle in for the night. I'll get it then and set the alarm at the same time."

I shrugged and slammed the door, locking it with the special dead bolt lock we had installed after the break in. Global could remove it when they got the truck back, but for now, we had too much fire power stashed in the cab to let it go unprotected. The alarm system the guys had advised us on was also installed.

Mulder spread the word through our friend Cooner that all the special security on the rig was due to his desire to keep me safe. I had tried to look helpless as Mulder had gone on about keeping his lady safe, but the balance of the conversation was lost to me as I began to think of the ways I would punish him for using my gender as an excuse.

By the end of the meal, I was resigned to accepting the reasoning behind his story. While Mulder accepted me as his equal and a valuable partner, the majority of the men on the road would look at me as a woman who needs protection. This attitude made the cover story sound reasonable. No one said I had to like it, but I understood it. I surprised Mulder when he began to apologize to me after leaving the diner by kissing him and telling him that very thing. All he could do was grin.

We got to our room and decided to get cleaned up and walk over to the Chevy's restaurant across the road. I was starving and took a quick shower while Mulder refueled and parked the rig in a line of others that were backed up against a concrete wall facing the motel room doors. He brought in the lap top and headed straight for the shower.

We were to contact the Guys at midnight Washington time, so we had plenty of time to eat. Chevy's had several big-screen TV's and the Yankees were playing. We decided to enjoy the evening off.

When we walked in, we saw a large group of fellow truckers. They waved us over and made room for us at their table. As big as our country was, you would think that the odds of meeting other drivers frequently enough to become friendly would be tremendous. But not true. Drivers you would meet once or twice face to face kept in contact through the CB. They were a close knit group and took care of their own.

Mulder had surprised me several times during this assignment, but one of the biggest surprises was how well my Oxford-educated, FBItrained partner fit in with these men. I contemplated this incongruity for a long time until I at last realized why. These men were honest, open people. They were not competing with Mulder or trying to belittle him to make themselves look better. He was not held up as an example to ridicule or praise. He was just one of the guys and as long as he delivered his load on time and didn't prevent them from delivering their loads, he was accepted. He wasn't trying to prove anything to them.

How different from his position in the FBI. How sad that he found acceptance here, but not in the life he had chosen.

The evening was fun. Good food, good game, good conversation. We left for our room around eleven. Mulder had hung back to talk to a driver named Little John but quickly caught up to me.

"Hey, wait for me," he said as he jogged up to a halt at my side.

I smiled at him and took his hand. "What were you and Little John talking about?"

"He asked if I could help him unload early tomorrow morning. The lumpers that normally hang around the warehouse where he has to unload tomorrow have been banned from the premises while a union dispute is settled, and I promised to help," he said casually.

"Mulder, you promised to unload the whole truck?" I was shocked.

"Naw, just a couple hundred cases that are a special order. They can't use the forklift or the pullpack on it, so it has to be done by hand. He doesn't trust the personnel at this warehouse not to lift a few cases for themselves, so he can't do it alone. It won't take me but an hour or so and I can clean up again before we check out." He suddenly looked into my eyes and asked, "Is that all right, Dana? I mean, I didn't think to ask you if you had early plans for the morning."

His concern for my wishes warmed my heart. "No, I think I'd like to sleep in tomorrow. That sounds fine."

We had been gathering data during the entire month that we had been on the road. We had sent that information to the guys via e-mail and Byers and Langly had set up a program that we could use to hide our findings in plain sight.

They had us plug our laptop into the phone jack and log on to a site they had set up. Within in moments the screen came alive with encoded data and then shut down abruptly.

Mulder called them on the cell phone immediately to ask what happened and they explained that it was done. We needed to reboot the computer and go to a special file of instructions they had inserted. Once that file was accessed it would self destruct. Mulder read it carefully and committed it to his own memory bank for future reference. I read it until I felt comfortable with the program and we deleted it.

We had to reboot the computer once again and the Guys walked us through the many ways possible of trying to recover the file. It was gone. All that was left was the personal diary of Dana Tanner, nee Kelly, dating back two and a half years to her first meeting with Martin Tanner. If anyone tried to access the data base without the correct password, the encryption program would also self destruct, leaving only the personal thoughts of a Dana Tanner to be found.

Both Mulder and I were impressed. We thanked the Guys and said goodnight.

After the sounds of a small struggle, Frohike's words came through loud and clear, "Hey, Marty, how is life with the Mrs.?"

"Hello, Fro, I didn't know you were there," Mulder said.

"Yeah, these two sent me on a wild goose chase while they talked to you. So, how's married life treating you?"

Mulder smiled into my eyes and said, "It's unbelievable, Frohike. Absolutely unbelievable." He hung up the phone but not before we both could hear poor Frohike groaning.

"That was cruel," I scolded.

"He deserves that and more for having the guts to ask something like that," Mulder growled. He smiled and shook his head. He reached over and pulled me into his arms.

"It has been unbelievable, Scully. I don't know if I'll be able to ever sleep alone again. I can't believe how well I sleep with you next to me."

"What do you mean, Mulder? You sleep alone all the time when I'm driving."

"Yeah, but I can still hear you and reach out and touch you."

"I know what you mean," I said snuggling against his chest. "I'm getting very used to being with you day and night, too. I thought it would be..."

"Impossible? Being around someone else night and day?" he finished for me. "Yeah, me too. I was worried that we would start to bicker and get on each other's nerves. But we haven't." He wrapped his arms around me even tighter and kissed the top of my head.

I looked up and he said, "I need my goodnight kiss now, Dana. I've got to get up early to help Little John."

I pulled away and I could tell he was disappointed. I just smiled and walked over to turn off the lights and check the lock on the door. "I'm turning in right now too. Get into bed and I'll be out in just a moment."

I hurriedly finished getting ready and crawled in on my side of the huge king sized bed.

Mulder pulled me into his arms and kissed me. We always called it a goodnight kiss when in fact it had worked up to a goodnight necking session. And this time we were horizontal in a huge bed while it happened.

I wanted him to push me a little, try to talk me into having sex with him but he stopped as usual. He was as aroused as I was but he stopped short once again.

"Oh, Mulder," I whispered. "I don't know how much longer we can go on like this."

"As long as you need, Scully. I can wait as long as you need me to, but I have to tell you this is damn hard."

I chuckled and brushed my hand against his pulsing erection, "I'll say."

He moaned and jerked back from my touch. "Scculllly! Damn it, don't make this worse than it is."

I was immediately contrite. "I'm sorry, Mulder. I want this case to be over too."

He just nodded and pulled me closer, lifting me and flipping me so that we could spoon. "Do we have to wait until the case is over?"

I sighed, beginning to wonder what the hell I was waiting for. Would he push it? I sighed again, trying to think of an answer and then he gave up.

"Night, Scully."

"Night, Mulder."

XXXXXXXXXX

BOEHM COMPANY (R)
THE NEXT MORNING

I was so frustrated, I could scream. If I had one more unrelieved hard on, I was going combust. I'd woken up on my back, Scully snuggled into my side, a leg thrown over my thigh, her head on my shoulder and her tiny hand gently gripping my erection through my boxers.

The uncontrolled moan I'd let out the instant I realized it was her hand on my johnson had awakened her. A second was all it took for her to realize what she was doing and she jerked away like she'd been burned.

"I'm sorry!" she'd hissed.

I hadn't even been able to answer her. If I opened my mouth or touched her at that moment, I would have ravished her. Instead, I heaved myself away from her and leaped out of bed, stomping off into the shower. I was too turned on to be embarrassed about the funny way I was walking. I'd locked the door, turned on the shower full blast and climbed in after shedding my underwear.

Before I even reached for a bar of soap, I'd been pumping my full blown erection hard and fast, feeling the ache rise up in my balls within seconds. In an embarrassingly short time, I was moaning like I was dying as hard, stinging ropes of cum shot out onto the walls of the shower as I climaxed, her name dying on my lips.

I couldn't keep this up. I know I told her I would give her as much time as she needed. Jesus Christ, how long did she need?

If she was half as frustrated as I was, I hoped she would reconsider about waiting until the end of this case. If I knew it would only be a few more days, I could talk myself into waiting. The reality was, however, that this could go on for a long time, months even. We had no way of knowing.

I wouldn't be an ass about it, but maybe I could slide those late night make out sessions into heavy petting. If I excited her enough, maybe she would decide not to wait as well. It was pointless as far as I was concerned. I knew it was inevitable that we'd be together.

I'd known it for a long time. At the same time, I needed for her to be sure. I also wanted her to be comfortable and not caving in out of some misguided notion that she would lose me if she didn't fuck me. This being a gentleman could really suck big time, sometimes.

I'd emerged from the shower to see her watching me furtively. Despite the noise of the shower, there's no way she could have missed me moaning and groaning in there like I was dying. She had to know what I was doing in there. She never mentioned it, so neither did I. I knew it made her uncomfortable. Well, shit. I couldn't help it. It was that or walk around with blue balls all day and I wasn't willing to do that.

XXXXXXXXXX

'Well, that could have gone better,' I thought as Mulder slammed the door. I couldn't help what I did in my sleep. I know this waiting was getting to him. What did he think it was doing to me? At least he could climb in the shower and jack off. Some of the women's showers we've had to use are not exactly conducive to masturbatory fantasies. If they weren't dirty, communal or sterile, they were downright dangerous. And I absolutely refused to masturbate in the bunk while Mulder was three feet away from me.

Speaking of which, I found that I was hot and needing release after waking with Mulder's cock in my hand and being forced to listen to his cries of completion. I forced myself to ignore my need and snuggled back down to go to sleep. Even though the cab of the rig was luxurious, there still was no replacement for a bed that did not move.

I tried to think of the many reasons I had to keep our relationship on a professional basis on this case, but all I could remember was a kaleidoscope of mental snapshots of Mulder.

Mulder grinning in the sunshine... Mulder kissing me goodnight... Mulder's long, thick cock twitching in my hand as I woke up...

And when I tried to block the thoughts of a very masculine Mulder, all those other traitorous thoughts would flood in.

Mulder giving me back my cross when I was returned, at my bedside, sporting a
goofy grin and Super Stars of the Super Bowl tape in hand, Mulder holding me after Penny's death, after Padgett's fantasy killer trying to kill me, after the final IVF attempt failed.

I fell asleep thinking of how intertwined our lives are. There was never going to be another man for me. Why was I waiting? I couldn't answer my own question. What did that mean?

XXXXXXXXXX

I felt the sweat soaking my wife beater tee shirt as I lifted another box from the trailer and lumped it out onto the dock, stacking it neatly on the skids that were set up there. I welcomed the physical activity to burn off my frustration. It helped keep me tired enough not to blow up and say or do something stupid. I'd foregone my run this morning to do this, and it was a fine substitute.

"Only a few more," Little John hollered from inside the cavernous fifty-three foot trailer.

I stood up straight and stretched my arms over my head, hearing my back decompress with a few loud pops. I bent at the waist, stretching my back muscles and groaned gently, feeling the muscles pull with a nice ache. The group of women on their break that had been watching Little John and I unload gave out a group moan, as a tease, trying to get my attention. I had to admit I enjoyed the attention. It was good for my ego. Why couldn't Scully be affected that way?

I shot them a grin just as I heard a gasp. I looked off the edge of the dock, behind them and saw her.

There she stood, two plastic cups in her hand, wearing a blue tank top and khaki shorts with a cuffed hem, along with bulky socks and her work boots. She looked so cute I couldn't help but smile.

She had an odd look on her face and I teasingly waved my hand up and down to get her attention. She blinked rapidly and then smiled, holding up one cup. "I brought you guys some ice tea. Thought you might want a drink by now."

Little John emerged from the back of the trailer, dropped his box on the skid and twirled to greet her. "Hey there, little lady. Did I hear someone say iced tea?"

Scully smiled her tight lipped smile, obviously irritated at being called 'little lady'. She refrained from a biting remark I knew was on the tip of her tongue and worked her way over to the cement steps on the side that led up to the dock. She gave the women there a glare and moved on up to join us.

"Thanks, honey," I said, risking the endearment.

She didn't cringe so that was a good sign. We each took a cup from her and gulped it down in a couple of long swallows. I coughed and wiped my mouth on the back of my hand.

When I looked up she was staring at me again, with that odd look again. I looked down at myself to make sure I didn't have something smeared on my shirt. Only sweat, I noted, then looked up again. Then I realized what that look was. She was checking me out! She was liking what she saw. Her cheeks were slightly flushed and I couldn't help but notice her nipples poking out through her shirt.

I also couldn't help the slow, smug smile that spread across my face. She blushed and turned away, clearing her throat. "Well, uh, how much longer ... honey?" she emphasized the last. Only I would have caught the censure in her voice and I grinned, unwilling to be chastened.

I stepped into her and raised her face to mine. I dipped down quickly for a quick kiss and then stood up. While she was making that adorable, surprised, guppy face she makes, I answered, "Just a few more minutes. We should be done in about ten, right, John?"

"You bet," he said, saluting and returning to the trailer after handing Scully his empty cup. I handed her my cup and winked at her. "You want to wait for me or meet me back at the truck?"

"Umm, I'll wait."

"O.K., we'll walk back together."

XXXXXXXXXX

True to Little John's word, we were done ten minutes later. He suggested a shower and then breakfast at the diner just down the street. We accepted and met there a half hour later.

We were about half way through our breakfast when Little John asked, "So, you hit all the weigh stations up the interstate yet?"

"No, not yet. We're headed that way, though."

"How's your load?"

"Meaning?" I asked, looking sideways at Scully who had stopped chewing and was suddenly very alert.

"Meaning, are you overweight or legal?"

"I think we're legal," I answered, remembering my bout in the rig with a hangover while Scully did all the work. I felt a quick spurt of guilt and resolved, like I do every time, never to drink again.

"We are, legal, that is. I checked last night," Scully added.

"Oh, well, you're set then," Little John said, punctuating his comment with a sharp nod of his head.

"And if we weren't?" I asked casually, spooning hash browns into my mouth to try and act like I wasn't overly interested.

Little John put down his fork and carefully wiped his mouth. "Well, I guess my question for you is ... are you by-the-book types?"

I saw the look of indignation cross Scully's face and interrupted her before she could defend us and blow this for us. She didn't see where he was headed, only that he was possibly insulting us.

"Not always," I replied quickly. "We've risked running overweight a time or two," I added, as though we were old hands at this.

Scully shot me a surprised look, but then schooled her features into her blank mask. I knew that look. It was the one that said, 'I'm going to wait and see what you're doing, but I don't like it.'

"Well, there are certain stations where you can slip by ... for a few bucks."

"Oh yeah? Which ones would those be? That could come in handy in the future."

Little John winked. "Now you're talking. You know the PUC, Public Utility Commission Officers, they call 'em?"

"Yup," I said, keeping my responses short, not wanting to give anything away.

"Well, they ain't all Abe Lincoln, you know what I mean?"

I smiled at him and gently nudged Scully when I saw her open her mouth. If she got righteous on this guy, he would shut down like a virgin in a locker room.

She shot me a dirty look this time, but leaned back in her seat, effectively removing herself from the conversation. I leaned toward him conspiratorially. "You wouldn't want to help out a friend, now would you? And let me in on who might be willing to overlook a little oops?"

He smiled back at me, nodding. "Sure. There's a station on I15 at the Utah/Arizona border and another one at the Cali border. There's a guy, Brody, at the Utah one. He's a slacker. For a Jackson, he'll look the other way and write you up as pretty as you please."

"Well, now," I murmured. "That is valuable information, buddy. How about the other one? Where in Cali?"

He regarded me for a moment, decided I wasn't going to turn on him, and said, "Well, as you head south to Cali on fifteen you'll hit one as you head through Stateline. At that one, there's a PUC named Kara. She's a ripe, cute, little thing too, but she's affable." He stressed 'affable' with special meaning.

"For a Jackson?" I said.

"No, she's a little harder on the wallet, say ... a Grant."

"I read you," I said and we casually went back to eating our breakfast. "Thanks for the info," I mumbled around a mouthful of eggs.

He smiled. "Sure thing, buddy. Least I can do since you helped me lump that load. I gotta go now though, my time's up. Maybe we'll hook up again sometime." He stood up and reached a hand out to me and then Scully, which we shook firmly and then he said, "Y'all take care now."

And he was gone. I let out a deep sigh and turned to Scully. "Well, that was interesting, no?"

She pursed her lips but then said, "I almost blew it, didn't I?"

I was silent a moment, not wanting to make her feel bad but not wanting to lie to her either. "You could have ... but you didn't, that's what matters."

"We have to go to these weigh stations, Mulder."

"I know. They're directly on our route anyway, so it won't be out of the way, which is good. If we deviate a little off the plan it might go unnoticed, but a big detour would definitely draw too much attention. We need to remember that most of the people at GlobalTech don't know what we're up to."

"Yeah, I know. They think we're just another pair of drivers."

"Right, so we luck out this time. That's a major clue, Scully. If there is a string of dirty PUC Officers, that could be our link to the hijackers. Maybe they're informants too ... to the hijackers, reporting on loads."

"That's all speculation, Mulder," she gently scolded me.

"I know, but speculation is all we have right now. We've been at this for weeks and so far, we have nothing. Zip, zero, zilch, nada, the big goose egg ..." I went on.

"All right! I get the point," she said as she chucked me in the arm. "And I've learned to follow your instincts, Mulder. They are usually good."

I waggled my eyebrows at her. "I wish you would follow my instincts, Scully," I teased.

She blushed to the roots of her hair and picked up her coffee cup, letting her hair swing forward to hide her face. I smirked, unable to help myself and tucked her hair behind her ear. She cringed and leaned her head down to dislodge my hand.

She peered up at me from under her long eyelashes and I nearly groaned at how sexy she looked. I loved it when she looked at me like that. She was embarrassed, but intrigued and aroused at the same time. I hoped this case ended soon, because I honestly didn't know how long I could wait to be with her. I found myself fervently praying to a God I didn't believe in that this clue led us somewhere.

"Let's get going. We hit the Utah/Arizona border, bop down to Las Vegas and drop this load. Then we pick up another one there and head to San Diego, LA and San Francisco. Sunny California, here we come," I joked.

She smiled. "Come on, Marty, let's hit the bricks."

XXXXXXXXXX

I took first shift. Mulder had already had quite a workout this morning lumping for Little John. He didn't climb up into the bunk, but dozed in his seat as soon as we hit the interstate.

I couldn't keep from looking at him now and then. He looked so different when he slept. Peaceful, boyish, sexy.

Who was I kidding? Not myself, certainly. I want him. I thought I was going to melt this morning. I came up behind the women at the break area without them noticing me. I heard them talking about the men they were watching, but didn't realize that Mulder was the one who held most of their interest until I stepped around the dumpster at the edge of the dock. I wanted to see this hunk they were talking about. When I realized that it was my partner, I was shocked.

I knew Mulder was a good looking man. I'd desired him off and on from the first time I laid eyes on him. I had seen him naked more than once and part of my mind always appreciated the view. But he was Mulder. . . the smartest man I had ever known, my partner, my friend, my best friend. I loved him for what was inside as much or more than the packaging. In fact, even though our close proximity had been driving me crazy, it was really just an extension of the desire that I'd felt for the inner man for years now.

But listening to them talk, the way they described his movements, their speculations on his abilities and attributes shocked me. Mulder? All this was about Mulder? Then I saw him. He had just finished stacking a box and stood up, stretching his arms over his head then bent over at the waist. They were right. Where had I been all this time? What was I thinking?

I guess I'd gotten too used to the sight of him to fully appreciate the packaging. The job had toned him even more than usual. His biceps were bigger, his pecs had more definition. The tight wife beater tee molded his chest and six pack abs like the skin on a grape.

I was mesmerized by the sheer beauty of his body and his grace. He made tossing heavy boxes around look sexy, but when he stopped and stretched, I was lost in a dream of a hot, sexy, Mulder, stretched out over me, touching me, kissing me, making love to me.

When he waved to get my attention, I was embarrassed. Caught staring at the merchandise. His smug little grin let me know that he was enjoying my discomfort. It was a good thing he was almost done. I gave the women at the break area one final glare and moved out of the way until they were done.

This case had to end soon or I'd be certifiable. I tried to think about the case to take my mind off Mulder. Little John had given us a couple of names to check out. Maybe things would break soon. It was my only hope.

XXXXXXXXXX

PART 10 (R)
I15 UTAH/ARIZONA BORDER
PUC WEIGH STATION

I'd left Scully sitting in the truck on the scale. I'd moved the load around at the last weigh station, so that we would be overweight on two axles. There was virtually no weight in the back of the trailer now, it was all in the front. "Hey there!" I grinned as I stepped up to the window.

"Hey yourself," the frowning man behind the window replied.

"What's your name?"

"Who wants to know?"

"I'm a friend of Little John's. He said I should look for a guy named Brody."

He looked at me suspiciously. "I might be Brody."

"Might be?"

He just stared at me. I slipped a twenty dollar bill into the tray that sat below the Plexiglas window featuring a small grill that you could talk through. "I need your help, buddy," I whispered, leaning in close. "I really need to get this load to San Diego ... quick. And I'm behind schedule. It's a government job and if I fuck it up, the boss is going to have a cow. I don't have time to be fussing with the chassis and the fifth wheel, man. I have to keep moving. Can you understand that?"

"Yeah," he said tentatively, weakening. He glanced at the twenty.

"That enough to snake on out of here?" I asked quietly.

He looked at the scales in front of him and back to me, then to the twenty. I pulled a ten out of my wallet. "How 'bout a Hamilton to go with that, buddy. I'm a little short this week, one of the reasons I need to get this load through. I can do better for you next time," I added, hoping his greed would push him to accept my offer. He was suspicious, but obviously, even thirty bucks was a nice little tip for the day.

He smiled suddenly, "You really know Little John?"

"Sure do, just left him at Boehm Company. Helped him lump a load cause the other boys weren't there to help."

"You're all right, then," he drawled. "Any friend of Little John's is a friend of mine."

I pushed the bills toward him. "You need me to sign that sheet?"

He pushed the clipboard into the tray and pushed it out to me. I glanced and saw the evenly distributed weights written on the sheet. I grinned and winked at him, signing my name ... Marty Tanner. "I won't forget this, man," I assured him.

"No problem. Hey, how you like driving for Global?" he asked.

I detected more than casual interest but feigned indifference. "It's all right, I guess. One outfit's a lot like the next. 'Cept I must say, these guys gave us a right nice rig," I added, sliding into the lingo. I winked at him again, "Me and the Mrs. appreciate that bigger bunk, if you know what I mean."

He laughed then. Ah, sex, the universal language of male bonding. "I sure do. Easier to rock the shocks when you have a little room, eh? Yeah, these mom and pop outfits can't afford rigs like that with all the fixin's, but RP Industries is fuckin' loaded, you know?"

I had to stop myself from letting my head snap straight up. "RP Industries?"

"Yeah, they own Global-Tech, didn't you know that?"

"Oh yeah, I guess I heard it mentioned, but I never gave it much thought."

"Well, that's where the money comes from and the government contracts. Those boys have contacts, if you know what I mean. They get all the good accounts."

"How's that?"

"Oh, well, that's the latest gossip. Other companies hatin' it, you know? But the VP of Fleet Services?" He ended with a question.

"Yeah?" I encouraged as I handed the clipboard back to him through the tray.

"He's got some sort of government connections and he's married to the VP of Logistics for Global Tech. She apparently, well, I think her Daddy is up to his neck in RP Industries stock. So between the two of them, they're shoving other bidders right out of the picture for those government contracts."

"That's not very fair."

"Dirty business for sure, buddy, but ... hey, that's what makes the world go 'round, eh?" He looked at the money still lying in the tray.

"I guess."

"We all do what we gotta do to get by, right?" he asked.

"We sure do, Brody. Big business is none of my concern, just so long as I get paid. Look, I gotta hit it. Thanks again, man."

"Go on and git," he said. "And hey, rock the shocks for me one time, huh? She's a real looker."

I forced a smile and walked away, leaving the bills in the tray and forced myself not to look back. I could see Scully peering at us from the passenger side of the truck as I crossed the pavement. I hopped into the truck and blew air out of pursed lips.

"Soon as you turned around, he snatched that money like it was the Holy Grail."

"Definitely dirty. If he'd take money from me, a stranger for the most part, then he probably is on the take from a lot of truckers."

"Other Global-Tech drivers?"

"Probably anyone that's willing to pay and keep their mouth shut."

"Well, we'll send someone to check him out. Let's roll. It'll look funny if we sit here too long."

"Yeah, I told him we were in a hurry." I double clutched and slid the rig into gear and gently navigated off the scale and around the lane that led back out onto the Interstate.

Scully murmured, "One down, one to go."

"We got bigger troubles, Scully."

"What?"

"He told me Global-Tech is owned by RP Industries."

"So?"

"Those initials don't ring a bell?"

She scrunched her brow. "Should they?"

"Roush/Pinck Pharmaceuticals, Scully, also known as ... RP Industries."

"Oh my God!"

"Yeah, and wait, it gets better. Get on the horn to the Gunmen. We need to find out the names of the VP of Fleet Services and the VP of Logistics at Global-Tech."

"What for?"

"The first has government connections, whatever that means, and the second is the daughter of some big deal in RP Industries. I'll lay money down that those two are up to their necks in dirty business."

Scully pulled out her cell phone. "I'm on it."

XXXXXXXXXX

The guys called us back nearly an hour later as we zoomed down the highway in the dead of night. I watched the street lights and the headlights flash by as Scully made sounds of interest into her cell phone, while scribbling onto a small pad she was resting on her thigh.

"Oh man," she whispered, sounding distressed.

"What?"

She waved me to silence.

"O.K., no, I've got it. Damn, this could get ugly. Been a while since I heard either of those names. Hoped I'd never hear them again."

I looked at her and frowned.

"Don't get caught. Poke around if you must, but cover your tracks well. We're not dealing with small timers here, I'm afraid." She paused, "I can't stop you, can I?" Another pause. "Cover your asses," she said finally, and shut off her phone.

"What's going on, Scully?"

"You're not going to like it."

"I didn't figure I would. It's bad, huh?"

"Worse."

"Worse?"

"You'll never guess who the VP of Fleet Services is for GlobalTech."

"No, I probably won't, so why don't you tell me?" I said, more testily than I meant to, getting impatient with her stalling.

"Sorry," she muttered.

"No, I'm sorry. I'm on edge. So who is he? A name you recognize, I take it?"

"Oh yeah, the name Thomas Strughold set your brain on fire?"

"No shit."

"Yeah, the guys dug a little deeper and he's THE Strughold's grandson."

"Damn."

"Yeah, I'll bet he's Consortium up to his arm pits."

"Taking Daddy's place?"

"You said he had government connections. What does that sound like to you? It's too much of a coincidence, Mulder."

"You think he's in cahoots to move product for the Consortium business."

"It has to be something like that."

"Who's the VP of Logistics? Who's she? Brody said they were married."

Scully looked at her lap and once again seemed reluctant to give me bad news. "This one's going to be bigger shock."

"Bigger than Strughold?"

She gave me a look of almost pity and I felt a cold chasm open up in my chest. "Who is it, Scully?"

She swallowed and whispered, "Her name is ... Deirdre Fowley."

"WHAT?" I nearly screamed.

Scully looked at her lap again. "Who is she?" she asked.

It was my turn to swallow. "She's Diana's little sister."

"Oh shit," she muttered.

"Oh shit doesn't begin to cover it."

"Who is the father?"

"Diana's father's name is Henry Fowley. He went by the nickname Butch. He's a wealthy man, owns an import/export business, among other things. He has his hands in a lot of pies, but I never knew ..."

"Never knew what?"

"I never heard him linked with Roush/Pinck Pharmaceuticals."

"The guys are checking now. Brody said he owned stock. The guys are trying to find out just how much ... or if it goes even further than that."

"This is getting shitty in a hurry, huh?" I said. It was a rhetorical question.

"Yeah, it is," she said as she began to put her notes into the encrypted 'diary' program.

XXXXXXXXXX

The lights of Los Vegas were visible for miles. Contrary to popular belief, gambling was not the only business in town. Several major companies had manufacturing and warehousing facilities in and around Vegas proper. Our business in Vegas was with a facility that assembled computers. We were delivering a load of parts and picking up our first load of supercomputers to be delivered in San Diego for disbursement to the various government facilities there. Both Mulder and I knew that this could be it.

We pulled into the terminal around dawn and dropped our trailer. We were given an appointment to pick up our next load for two days later and directions to the warehouse. We had a two day layover in Vegas. Two days with nothing to do. Oh boy!

Mulder and I drove through the city, checking out the sights and trying to decide where to stay. The dispatcher had suggested The Voyeur Motel down the street from the terminal, but when we drove by, we both agreed that we wanted something better.

"We could always stay at the Palms, Dana," Mulder teased.

"The Palms, Marty?" I knew I had heard of it, but couldn't place the conversation.

"Yeah, it's owned by the Maloofs, owners of the Sacramento Kings," he grinned. "Maybe we could see Chris Webber or Vlade Divac or Doug Christie."

"Mulder..." I warned him.

"I know, I know. No parking for the rig," he grinned to let me know he had been teasing.

"Right. I want to go to a nicer place, too, but not quite that upscale. We don't need to bring attention to ourselves while we're here."

He agreed and fell quiet as we searched for an acceptable motel. We finally agreed to try the Rising Star Motor Court. I had Mulder pull over and I ran in to ask about an available room. The attendant was a sweet little old lady type and she took me out to make sure the room was acceptable before I paid.

They didn't have a double room available on the first floor, parking lot side. I wasn't sure how Mulder would feel about being separated, but she promised to save the adjoining room for us for the next night, if we needed it. I was almost relieved that my room was on the other side of the motel and upstairs. My hormones were in overdrive already, and I didn't think I could take one more night in Mulder's arms without jumping him.

We needed to be on top of our game right now. We were getting close and things could be heating up any moment. I just hoped that Mulder understood that this wasn't a personal rejection.

Mulder's quick acceptance of the sleeping arrangements hurt my feelings at first, which was ridiculous since it was what I wanted. Right? It wasn't until I looked into his eyes and saw the love and understanding there, that I realized that he was doing what he thought I needed. Space. Just a little breathing room to keep it together.

"This is good Scully. I can park the rig close enough that I can hear if anyone is messing with it. We can both use a good night's sleep." His smile eased my concern.

"Speaking of sleep, I think I'm going to go up to my room and grab a nap after I shower," I said. "What are you going to do?"

"I don't know, I think I might grab a shuttle and go look around downtown a little. Do you want to go?" he asked.

I assured him that I was in dire need of a shower and sleep and he grinned again. "I'll call you when I get back. We can go get some dinner and a maybe catch a show or... something."

I held my breath for a moment, then I had to ask, "Is this a date, Mr. Tanner?"

He stared at me and smiled. "Yeah. A date. I'll call you later and let you know what time, Mrs. Tanner."

I smiled at him and gave him a quick kiss on his cheek. "Later, handsome." I knew he was watching me climb the stairs, eyes glued to my derriere. The extra wiggle in my walk extracted a small groan as he waited until I was out of sight. This could prove to be interesting.

XXXXXXXXXXX

I had a cab take me to a small plaza I'd seen on our ride in. As I walked the sidewalk and browsed the windows of the stores, my eyes were caught by one in particular, 'The Cow's Outside'. I wandered over and looked at the outfit on the mannequin in the window and instantly saw it on Scully. Oh Christ Almighty. She would be so hot in that. Before I could talk myself out of it, I went inside and looked around for a while, but I kept wandering back to the outfit in the window. A form fitting, waist-length jacket and a black leather skirt that would hang to mid thigh. The mannequin wore a white cropped tee underneath that barely hung below the bust line.

A saleswoman approached and said. "That's a nice one. You interested?"

"Yes, do you have it other sizes?"

"Not ones that would fit you," she teased.

I chuckled. "No, my ... wife is a size six."

"Top and bottom?" she asked.

"Yes."

"Let me take a look in the back."

She disappeared and I stood my ground. She returned shortly with the skirt and jacket in her arms. "Here they are."

I took them from her hands and examined the tags. Not cheap. But then again, Scully was worth it. At one of our layovers at a truck stop, I'd pocketed the personal ATM card that I'd had the guys set up for Marty Tanner that accessed my own funds, and withdrew three hundred in cash. I did it for the next couple days as well. I hadn't told Scully. I'd wanted to have cash on me. And she would worry about us blowing us our cover.

"What would you recommend for footwear with this?"

The clerk gave me an assessing look and said, "Dressy cowboy boots would be perfect, the ankle height ones they make for women. I have just the thing. Do you know her shoe size?"

"Size five."

"Tiny feet. You'll want a size five and a half or six in a boot."

"How come?" I asked as I followed her to the back of the store where the wall was covered with shoes, and boots on little shelves.

"Because boots run a about a half size smaller in comparison to shoes and it gives some wiggle room. Feet tend to swell slightly in boots because there isn't a lot of air circulation, so you want to be sure you have room for that. Otherwise, they end up pinching your feet."

"Don't want that."

"No you don't," she replied. "Here they are. They have that small cranberry stripe for color. What do you think?"

"Perfect. You have a size six?"

"Yes, I do."

"I'll take them, and the outfit."

"Right on. I'll get them for you."

I paid for the outfit and the boots and exited the store. I figured I'd spent enough money for one day and hailed a cab to take me back to the hotel. I hoped Scully wouldn't be offended that I'd bought her clothes again. I didn't want to imply that her clothing choices were substandard. I just knew what she had in her suitcase. None of it was really appropriate for a night on the town. And I intended to show Scully a good time. I wasn't going to let the chance go by. I was going to take her on a real date. I couldn't wait.

Then I remembered the tracking device the guys had slipped in the bag with the ATM card and made a mental note not to forget to give it to Scully. She wouldn't know what it was, but what she didn't know wouldn't hurt her.

XXXXXXXXXX

I thought I would be too excited to take a nap, but after a long, hot bath, I easily fell asleep and woke up rested and excited for our date to begin.

I searched through all my clothes and realized that I didn't have anything to wear. I chuckled to myself at the girlie way I was thinking. This is Vegas; any way I dress will be acceptable, I finally decided as I picked a pair of jeans and the green tank and shirt that matched. This was a date, but it was with Mulder. There was nothing to be nervous about. Was there?

I almost called Mulder three times that afternoon before the phone rang.

[Hey, Dana. Did you have a good nap?] his voice was low and sexy.

"Yes, thanks. I feel rested and hungry. Have you picked somewhere to eat yet?"

[I got a few ideas while I was out. What do you feel like eating tonight? Italian, Chinese, Seafood? They have something for everyone here in Vegas.]

"Hummm... I'll have to let you know when you come to pick me up," I stalled.

[Scully, what are you wearing?] His words sent a jolt of desire through me.

"Mulder..."

[I got you something while I was out. I'd love to see you in it tonight.]

"Mulder, I can't wear anything you would buy at an adult bookstore out in public," I teased, suddenly even more nervous.

[You'll like it, Dana, can I bring it up now?]

"Just give me a few minutes, Mulder, then come on up. And it better not be edible underwear!"

"Gee, thanks for that visual, Scully," he reprimanded with mock sternness. I laughed as I hung up the phone and rushed into the bathroom to make sure my makeup was perfect. My hair had decided to take a vacation and was wildly curled. I hadn't noticed how long it was getting while we were on the road. Maybe I should get it cut while I was here in Vegas.

Mulder's knock on the door was expected, but it still made me startle.

"Coming..." I said as I walked across the room.

Mulder said something under his breath that I couldn't quite catch through the door. I started to ask him what he said, when the look on his face stopped me cold. He was standing there dressed in a pair of his old jeans and a new shirt, staring at my hair as if he'd never seen it before.

"Scu...Dana! You're hair is beautiful. It's so curly and. . . long," he reached out tentatively to touch my hair but drew his hand back quickly. "May I come in?" he asked almost sheepishly.

"Of course, I'm sorry," I said as I stepped away from the door.

Mulder walked in carrying a large bag. He kept going until he reached the bed and sat down, not taking his eyes off my hair for a moment.

I laughed nervously, and asked "Is that for me?" I gestured towards the bag.

"Oh, yeah, the boots are from me. These and the outfit they match," Mulder grinned. "I thought you might need some clothes for our down-time. Who knows? We may be able to have a little fun in this town."

I opened the boot box and saw a pair of beautiful, handcrafted black leather boots with just a touch of cranberry trim. "Mulder. I don't know what to say." I was stunned. Mulder handed me a smaller bag and waited until I opened it.

"I saw these and I couldn't resist. Happy Birthday, Scully." Mulder said without a trace of a smile.

"Mulder, my birthday was months ago," I said as I opened the bag and pulled out the contents. "Oh my, it's beautiful!" I gasped. The skirt was black, short and straight. The jacket was buttery soft black leather with a touch of cranberry and white. It was short but had long sleeves. The outfit was extremely well made out of a superior cut of leather. I would never have spent this much on myself.

"Mulder..."

He held up his hand, stopping my words, "Think of this as a way to make up for all the birthdays I've forgotten in the past and the ones that I'll probably forget in the future. Do you like it?"

I was nearly speechless. "Yes," I managed, "But this must have cost a fortune."

"Good, it's worth twice the price if you like it and it fits. Try it on. The display had one of those tee shirts that look like it's been torn off right in the middle of your stomach under the jacket."

"You mean a cropped tee? I think I have something to put under it. I'll be right back."

Mulder settled back on the bed and watched me leave the room. I took the boots and leather outfit, and then came back to search through my suitcase for the rest of the clothes I would need.

Did I say I was stunned? The boots and the outfit had to have cost several hundred dollars. Why would Mulder spend that kind of money on me? And where did he get it? I hoped he hadn't made another large charge on the Martin Tanner credit card. Skinner would have a cow. No pun intended.

I knew I should give it back, but... How did he know leather clothing was my secret weakness? I love the smell and feel of fine leather. I love how it molds to my body and makes every curve look sexy.

When Melissa and I were young, I could never wear the flowing long skirts and 'Stevie Nicks' outfits that made Melissa look like a fairy princess. But give me a black leather mini-skirt and a pair of high heels and I had my own pack of men falling all over themselves to ask me out.

I quickly pulled off my clothes and put the new outfit on. I slid the silky thigh-high stockings I brought with me on and then donned the skirt. I looked at myself in the mirror and frowned. The skirt hung low on my hips and fit just right, but it was so molded to my curves that my panty line showed. I quickly stepped out of my bikini panties and donned the pair of thong underwear I had brought, just in case. Problem solved.

I pulled on a white cropped silk tee and the boots. The fit was wonderful. They had a two and a half inch heel, high enough to showcase my legs, but low enough to dance in all night.

Last but not least was the jacket. It slid over my arms, and it molded to my breasts. It felt like it had been custom made just for me. I stood looking at myself in the mirror. I remembered this woman. It was Dana. I suddenly realized why Mulder had bought this outfit for me. He wanted me to know that he saw me, Dana Scully. He was giving me the sign I always told myself I was waiting for.

Mulder told me he wanted to deepen our relationship and this was his commitment. He wanted me to trust him, to know that he valued all of me, not just as his partner or his friend, but as his love, as a strong, independent woman.

Or maybe I was reading way too much into it. Maybe he thought if I looked and felt sexy, it would improve his chances. He didn't need any help in the temptation department, but I didn't need to let him know that.

I saw Mulder step up behind me in the mirror. I watched him inspect me from the rear, head to toe. His eyes widened as he spied my tattoo. He stepped forward to check out my reflection in the mirror. Finally his eyes met mine in the glass.

"Beautiful," he said and slowly slid his arms around me from behind. "You look better than the mannequin did in that, Scully. It was made for you, I swear."

"Thank you," I said, my voice was low and sultry. "How can I ever let you know how much I love this outfit, Mulder?" I placed my hands on his strong forearms and leaned back into his embrace.

"I'm sure I can think of something, Scully." His eyes glowed and his beautiful lips twitched as he fought the urge to accept the opening I had just given him to tease me.

I smiled back at him in the mirror and we stood quietly enjoying the feeling of our embrace. I watched as Mulder's eyes darkened. I could feel the heat from his arousal through the soft leather, practically branding my skin. I casually wondered what he would do if he knew I had a thong on under the skirt. I was soon to find out.

Mulder slid his hands from around my waist. One went higher to caress the bare skin of my midriff, just skimming the undersides of my breasts. His other hand slid over my belly button to the leather clinging to my hip, on around to cup the cheek of my ass, and then on down my thigh. On his way back up he slid his hand under the edge of the skirt to stroke the silky stockings that clung to my thighs.

"Damn! Scully, warn a guy, will you?" he gasped.

"Hummm?" was all I could say.

"Stockings, Agent Scully? Do you have any idea how incredibly sexy I find stockings on a woman in a short skirt?" Mulder nuzzled my ear as he rasped out, "How incredibly sexy you are when you wear stockings?"

I remained silent, but it didn't stop my mind from screaming, 'If you think that's something, keep going, G-Man!'

Mulder stroked up my thigh and when I didn't stop him, let his hand roam a little higher, seeking at least a touch of my panties. His hand slid higher and higher until he was cupping my bare derriere in his large hand. The look on his face in the mirror was priceless. . .a mixture of shock, lust and curiosity.

"Scully? Are you naked under this skirt by any chance?" he finally asked.

"Of course not, Mulder. You know that I have my stockings on," I replied calmly. My lips began to twitch at his continued look of bemusement.

"And?" Mulder coached.

"And my underwear, of course," I wouldn't give an inch.

"Sccuuullly," he groaned as his hand explored more of my bare skin. "God help me, you're wearing a thong."

I merely gazed back at him in the mirror. If I tried to speak right now, I would lose it and start giggling.

Mulder's expression darkened as he caught a glimpse of my tattoo between the jacket and the low riding skirt, "That's it, take it off." He pulled the jacket down off my arms and yanked it off me. He reached for the zipper to the skirt but I scooted out of his reach.

"What do you mean, take it off?"

"I have to take it back, Scully." Mulder moved towards me again.

"No!" I slipped by him and moved into the bedroom. "Why? I thought you liked how it looks on me."

"I LOVE how it looks on you, Scully. And so will every other tenth degree horn dog that walks by," Mulder said with a growl. He pursed his lips until they were thin lines slashed across his face, "I fucking love how it looks on you, but I can't stand the thought of you wearing it ..." he stopped.

"Showing off my assets?" I whispered.

"Yeah," Mulder spat, but said no more.

"Why? Why don't you want me to wear it for everyone to see?" I pushed. I needed to hear him tell me what he was feeling.

"Because... Because I... I'm a selfish bastard, Scully. I don't want you around any other men."

"Let's clarify this, shall we, Mulder?" I said. "You don't want me to wear this when there are other men around or you don't want me to wear this where anyone can see me in it, particularly men?"

"Yeah," he growled.

"Mulder," I grinned. "That means I could wear it to, oh, say, bed."

At his surprised look, I burst into a deep belly laugh.

"That's the only place I go that there's no men around, Mulder."

"You could fix that, Scully. Just say the word." He made a quick move and grabbed me, pulling me up next to him and wrapping his arms around me. "Are you laughing at me, Scully?" His mood had lightened again.

"No, Mulder. I was trying to make you see how impossible it is to expect me to never go around other men," I smiled as I spoke. "What makes you think I'd wear it for anyone but you, anyway?"

His expression softened. "Scully, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to imply that I have the right to tell you what you can and can't do. It just makes me crazy, thinking of you wearing that outfit, knowing what you're wearing under it or not wearing under it," Mulder sighed. "And when I think of another man touching you, I lose it." He turned away, looking out the window.

I studied him for a long moment and then spoke, "What if I want you to feel that way, Mulder?"

He turned back to me, interest in his eyes.

"What if I want to wear this outfit for you and only you? What if I like the thought of everyone knowing that I'm with you and that it's going to stay that way?" My voice lowered to a tiny whisper, "What if I want to wear this in front of other people and let them know that you're the only one that will ever know what I actually wear under it, the only man that will ever take it off me? Yours is the only opinion that matters to me, Mulder."

As I spoke, he drew closer to me as my words faded to a mere sigh. I wanted him and I was finally able to believe in his fidelity. I loved him and I was ready to commit to him.

"Scully," he said quietly. "I can't think of anything that would make me happier. I've known you were the woman for me for years. I feel like we're finally on the same page. It's time ... it's our time." He slowly lowered his lips to mine. When I rose up to meet him he grasped me tightly, trying to draw me even closer.

Our lips barely touched, then drew apart. Touched again and slid across each other's lips. And again apart. He pulled away, asking if I wanted to go farther, with a look.

I slid my hands up his chest and wrapped them around the back of his neck, pulling his lips down to mine again. Mulder groaned as I began to nip and suckle at his lips, ending with a series of small, passionate kisses.

He reached down and grasped my legs, bringing me up to his height. The supple leather skirt slid up as I wrapped my thighs around his waist and grabbed his shoulders for balance. I groaned at the feel of his big hands on my bare ass. He gave a squeeze and I moaned right into his mouth. That got a response.

He began to ravage my mouth, using his lips and tongue and teeth to let me know how much he loved me, needed me, wanted me.

I kissed him back with several years of desire unleashed. Moments passed and we finally pulled apart, panting and smiling and giving each other soft, parting kisses.

I rested my forehead against his, "Mulder, we have to stop."

"I know, Scully. I understand. You need time to sort this out."

"No, Mulder, you don't understand. I know exactly what I want and who I want it with. You," I said with a smile. "I just don't want to rush anything. We have a number of people who are depending on us to solve this case. When we finally do this, and it will be soon, Mulder, I don't want an hour or two. I don't want even a day or a weekend. When we do this, Mulder, I want it to be all about us. No interruptions, no phone calls, no responsibilities. Just days and days of us. Do you understand?"

He let me slide down his body, giving a soft moan of desire as I rubbed against his erection on the way down. "Yeah, I understand, Scully. I can wait for that. Just don't make me wait to hear you say..." He paused. "You admitted it. Can you say it?

I placed my fingertips on his lips, "I love you, Mulder. I've told you before and I'll not stop saying it now. We'll have our time together, I promise. Now, take me out, Handsome. This outfit is gorgeous and I want to strut my stuff."

XXXXXXXXXX

PART 11 (R)
RISING STAR MOTOR COURT
SCULLY'S ROOM

"Oh, one more thing. I almost forgot." I picked up the leather jacket that I planned on wearing tonight and had draped over the chair in her room. I pulled out the small black box, holding it out to her.

She stepped into me. "Mulder, you've spent way too much money here. Now jewelry? You already gave me the ring."

"It's not much, don't get excited, but I thought they were nice. They just looked like you."

She gingerly opened the box and smiled wide. Her eyes were a little wet but she plucked one out and set the box on the bed. She fumbled with her earlobe and the back to the earring, finally sliding the overlapping silver hearts into her ears. She did the same with the other one and then trotted into the bathroom to look at them.

I followed and stepped in to see her tucking her hair behind her ears as she looked in the mirror. They're pretty, Mulder, thank you."

"You're welcome. I knew you wouldn't want something dangly or flashy."

"No, not my style."

"But I ... wanted something that was just from me to you, you know, not government issue."

She grinned. "I'll never take them off."

"Good. As long as you're wearing them, I'll know we're still a team."

She frowned slightly at that but said, "Of course."

I smiled at her. "Now I would like to take my unbearably hot wife out on the town. You ready, Mrs. Tanner?"

"Ready or not, Las Vegas, here we come!" she cried with a little mocking jubilance.

I chuckled and followed her out of the bathroom and out into the hallway, grabbing my jacket on the way out.

XXXXXXXXXX

SAM'S TOWN BAR AND DANCE HALL
LAS VEGAS, NV

We ate a quick dinner of various appetizers, sampling the menu and then crossed over into the bar side of the establishment. A DJ was set up on the stage and couples gyrated to the sounds reverberating off the walls.

We found a small round table off the side of the dance floor and sat down. I went to the bar and ordered us two Heinekens. I returned and settled my chair close to hers and sat down, draping one arm over the back of her chair in a possessive move that didn't go unnoticed. I was treated to the 'eyebrow', but she didn't say a word. She just smiled and took a long swallow of her beer. I watched her throat as she swallowed, wishing I was the one sliding down her throat. I wondered if she could deep throat.

I shifted uncomfortably in my chair as I felt my groin tingle. I didn't need to get excited right now. That wasn't what this night was all about. I wanted Scully to have a good time. I wanted us to enjoy being normal people out for a night on the town. We didn't get the chance very often and it was even rarer that we could enjoy an evening together.

Of course, knowing that I could touch her now, even in small ways, was driving me to distraction. My tattoo was healed now, and I was wearing a snug, white tank top and black jeans under my leather jacket that hung to mid thigh. I took off my jacket and hung it over the back of the chair.

A Judd tune, 'Rockin' With the Rhythm of the Rain' started to play and I stood up and grabbed Scully's hand. "Come on, Mrs. Tanner, let's dance."

She grinned and stood, following me as I towed her out onto the dance floor.

**Sittin' on the porch swing
Listenin' to the light rain
Beatin' on the tin roof
Baby, just me and you
Rockin' with the rhythm of the rain**

I grasped Scully tightly around the waist with one arm, the other on the back of her neck and began swaying around the dance floor. She was light on her feet and followed my lead easily.

**Slide on over
Baby hold me closer
Movin' to and fro
Just swayin' like a slow freight train
Rockin' with the rhythm of the rain**

She leaned back slightly to peer into my face and she was beaming from ear to ear. I smiled at her and then looked over her head to see several males with their eyes glued to her backside. I swung her around to lessen the view and put her butt facing the middle of the dance floor and I let my knees go loose and both hands slide down to cover said derriere. She gasped a little as I palmed her tight rear end cheeks, but didn't protest. Her hands slid from my arms up around my neck and she pressed close as we two stepped slowly around the dance floor, my hands never leaving the soft buttery leather that covered her ass. As we did, the unearthly harmony of the Judds flooded the bar and I felt like we were dancing in a bubble, where no one else existed.

**So let the breeze keep blowin'
(Rockin with the rhythm of the rain)
(Night birds a singin' the crickets a callin') Oh, my heart will never be the same
Keep the sweet feelin' flowin'
(Whisper in my ear baby)
(Oh, feels so fine)
(Nights like this come once in a lifetime) Me and my baby rockin' with the rhythm of the rain

Oh baby, hold me tight
Say you love me
That's all I wanna hear tonight

Sittin on the porch swing
Listenin to the light rain
Beatin' on the tin roof
Baby, just me and you
Rockin' with the rhythm of the rain

Slide on over
Baby hold me closer
Movin' to and fro
Just swayin' like a slow freight train
Rockin' with the rhythm of the rain

So let the breeze keep blowin'
(Rockin with the rhythm of the rain)
(Night birds a singin' the crickets a callin') Oh, my heart will never be the same
Keep the sweet feelin' flowin'
(Whisper in my ear baby)
(Oh, feels so fine)
(Nights like this come once in a lifetime) Me and my baby rockin' with the rhythm of the rain

Me and my baby rockin with the rhythm of the rain**

That song segued into one by George Strait, singing about life and love and we slowed. My hands drifted up to clasp her around the waist. I dropped my nose into her hair and inhaled its citrus scent and swayed slowly, just enjoying the feel of her leather clad body pressed tightly
to mine.

I felt twinges of sexual excitement and ruthlessly suppressed them. Her flushed cheeks and glowing face were enough of a reward. Scully was actually relaxing, a rare event indeed, and I didn't want to blow it by coming on too strong and making her feel like she had to break out her defenses.

When the slow song ended, we returned to our seats and finished our beers. The evening went well, and several men came over and asked Scully to dance. She politely turned them down as I glowered from my chair, leaning over her possessively, and they backed off with looks that told me I was one lucky son-of-a-bitch.

Finally, it was getting late and we were tired, but still high on our evening on the town. We decided to go back to the hotel. When we got there, Scully spied the pool and took my hand, leading me through the fence and I settled on a padded chaise lounge chair, reclining my back. She straddled my thighs, causing her short skirt to ride up her thighs and expose the tops of her silky stockings. I sucked in my breath and stared at her legs.

She chucked my chin playfully and murmured, "Hey, my face is up here."

I looked up to find her grinning at me and I yanked her into my chest. She landed with a soft thud and chuckled, raising her face. I kissed her, slowly and leisurely as she wiggled herself into a more comfortable position. This had the effect of making me start to harden and I bucked underneath her to let her know what she was doing to me.

She broke the kiss and looked into my eyes. My voice was graveltoned as I stared into her baby blues. "Scully, I can't wait much longer ... case or not."

She stared at me and knew I was dead serious. "I know. I feel bad now."

"Bad?"

"Yeah, that I'm making you wait, exciting you and not following through."

"It has gone beyond the playful teasing stage," I admitted.

"You've been so patient with me and I love you for it. But I really think it's important that we not be distracted while this case is going on."

"I don't know about you but ... you don't think I'm distracted now?" I asked, my voice incredulous.

She smiled softly. "I guess we are."

"You guess? Scully, unlike you, I don't believe it's an either/or situation."

"What do you mean?"

"I think we can be lovers and still work on a case. I think NOT being with you and knowing that I'm going to be ABLE to be with you is a hell of a lot more distracting than if we were doing the horizontal mambo."

"Horizontal mambo?"

"You know what I mean. All I can think about every spare moment is WHEN? When can I hold you next, kiss you again? When can I make love to you?"

She sighed deeply and put her head on my shoulder. We sat that way, her sitting facing me in my lap for a long while, listening to the crickets and hearing the water lap gently against the sides of the pool. "I need to think about it a little more, Mulder. Maybe you're right. Can you give me just a little more time?"

"Of course I can, Scully. I didn't mean to imply that I WOULDN'T wait. I'll wait as long as you need me to wait. You know that. Not like I have a choice in the matter," I murmured, knowing I sounded slightly petulant.

She kissed the skin above my tank top and I swallowed heavily. "Let me think about it. And you do have a choice. You could be pushy and you're not. You could get angry and you haven't. I appreciate that, Mulder."

"All right. Let's go to bed. We have a day to sleep late and relax, but then we have to be moving again by tomorrow night."

She extricated herself from my lap and we held hands as we walked to her room. I kissed her in the doorway and couldn't help myself when I deepened the kiss, feeling myself become erect again. It seemed this was going to be a near perpetual state around Scully. My hands skimmed over her exposed midriff, reveling in the softness of her skin. She finally broke the kiss. "I had a wonderful time tonight, Mulder."

"Me too. We'll have to do it again sometime."

She nodded, smiling. "Are you tired?"

"Not yet, but I'll get there."

"You going to watch TV?"

"Maybe. I'll probably just jerk off and go to sleep though," I teased.

She gasped at my boldness and then slapped my chest playfully. "Geez, Mulder. Do you have to be so ..."

"Crude?" I supplied. "Just being honest, Scully. Driving around with blue balls isn't my idea of a fun day."

She frowned, "I was going to say graphic."

"I can only be hard so long before I give myself relief or it becomes painful."

She bit her bit her bottom lip and whispered, "I'm sorry. Am I being too much of a tease?"

I smiled gently. "No, Scully. You can't help it if the mere sight of your skin or brush of your arm or your smile makes me insta-hard. You could dress like a nun and you'd be a temptation to me. It doesn't matter. I want you. That doesn't go away. It's just this ... constant ache I have. I'll have it until ... well, until you let me make love to you. I'm kinda used to it. After all, I've wanted you for years. But knowing that being with you is so close ..." I shrugged, not knowing what else to say. I kissed her forehead lightly. "Good night, Scully," I whispered in her ear and then I backed away and made my way to my own room.

I felt the loss of her next to me like a severed limb and wondered if that sensation would ever go away. I doubted it. We were getting close. She'd admitted she wanted to be with me. She was no longer pondering the pros and cons. It was just a matter of timing for her. For me, I personally didn't see what the fuck difference it made. I wanted her, she wanted me. Why the hell couldn't we be together? I honestly didn't think that I would be better or worse on this case because of it. It was one of those things that was a part of my life and it would always be slightly distracting. But I could concentrate when I needed to.

She didn't know it but I did get angry occasionally. I was sick of this whole song and dance. I thought waiting was ridiculous. I wouldn't tell her that, though. I respected her opinions and feelings, even if I didn't share them. I respected her. And that was why I wasn't being pushy or showing her my anger or the true level of my frustration.

I sighed and slipped the key into my lock, knowing it was going to be another lonely night in a long string of lonely nights. At least I knew there was an end in sight. She did want to be with me. God, I just hoped she didn't make me wait too long. I was going insane.

XXXXXXXXXX

The next day we slept late, had brunch and then went shopping to stock up the fridge and cooler in the truck. We packed up and checked out of the hotel and made our way over to Las Vegas Circuitry to pick up the load of computers that we were to take to their San Diego warehouse.

Scully was quiet but not sullen, and I knew she was thinking about our discussion from last night. True to my word, I'd stripped and jerked off before going to sleep. This time, though, I'd decided to masturbate in the shower and save myself the trouble of clean up. That ritual was getting old, fast. I drove in silence and turned on the radio to fill the dead air and let her think whatever she needed to think. I concentrated on the road, knowing we had another DOT weigh station to hit before crossing the border into California.

I fully expected that this load would attract the hijackers. If it didn't, I didn't know what would. I was going to make sure that the inspectors at the weigh station knew what our load was. If someone came after us shortly thereafter, we would know the likely source of the information leak, or one of them anyway.

XXXXXXXXXX

We made it through the weigh station. I made up some bullshit excuse like I thought my load had shifted in the trailer. I opened up the back and hopped in while the inspector watched me. I moved a few pallets with a pallet jack and re-secured them even though they were fine, just to put on a show and make sure anyone interested could see that it was government computers we were hauling.

The name and city of the computers' destination was written in big bold letters on the shrink wrap of each pallet. I hopped out, smiled at the man and closed the trailer, replacing the red seal on the handle as he watched.

I'd been driving about five hours, so we pulled into a truck stop a few miles up the road, refueled, got some supper and Scully took over.

We were in California and headed southwest. Two hours later, it happened. I heard Scully slowing the rig and pulling over. I sat up in my seat, having been dozing. "What's up?"

She pointed and I saw a young girl standing beside a car with a smoking engine. She looked fairly distressed as Scully pulled to a stop several feet beyond her. "What are you going to do?" I asked.

"See if she needs a ride," she said as she set the brakes. I looked around and saw that we were in the middle of nowhere. There were no rest stops, no truck stops, no weigh stations and no houses for as far as the eye could see. The road was a long ribbon of concrete between the rolling dunes and scrub that populated the desert all the way into the mountains. The solar emergency-call box located about fifty feet away was obviously out of commission. It looked like it had been hit by a truck.

"Scully, let me check on her."

"Don't be silly." She jumped out of the rig and headed toward the girl.

I hopped out on my side and made my way toward the end of the trailer, thinking I was probably being paranoid.

The girl said, "Thank God you stopped. I don't know what to do. I don't have no cell phone and the call box has been damaged. I was afraid to walk to the next one alone."

"You want a ride to the next exit?" I asked, seeing that she was really a young girl.

"That would be good, I guess. I need to find a phone."

"We have cell phones," I offered.

"What happened?" Scully asked, her voice suddenly a little harsh.

I turned to look at her. The girl answered, "I don't know. I heard a knocking, then a bang and then it started smokin'. I figured I ought to pull over."

"Did you open the hood?" Scully asked.

"No, it's hot."

I took a step toward the front of the car and Scully's arm whipped out and shot in front of my stomach. "Don't."

"Dana, what's the problem? I'm just gonna see if it's something obvious. We probably shouldn't be here anyway, it could blow up. We need to call the cops."

"Oh, you don't need to be doin' that!" the girl drawled in a southern accent, her voice suddenly much more assured.

Scully said, "She has a phone, Marty."

I glanced and saw the cell phone peeking out of her purse and it was lit up. The phone was on and someone was listening to this entire conversation. I stiffened and turned toward the manzanita scrub wood just in time to see two men emerge holding pistols. Bullets pinged off the hood of the car as I shoved Scully ahead of me and around to the driver side of the trailer. We raced for the door.

I turned to see the girl barreling after us with a pistol in her hand. I spun on my heel as Scully yanked the door open and climbed into the cab. I rushed the girl and she wasn't expecting it.

Her arms went up in the air and I easily knocked the gun out of her hand. Not waiting to meet the welcoming committee, I spun back and hopped into the open door of the cab just in time to see Scully pointing one of the Mag flashlights out the open passenger side window. She took careful aim as I released the brakes and slid the truck into gear. She pushed the button and I heard a yelp and saw one man go down out of the corner of my eye.

"Move!" Scully shouted.

I popped the clutch and the truck leaped forward.

I heard what sounded like a mini explosion. "Shit!" Scully said, "They hit a tire
on the trailer. Go, go, go!"

I up shifted as quickly as I could, checking my west coast mirrors and saw a small dirt turn around some distance behind. A four by four sped out onto the pavement with two men behind the wheel.

I gunned it, knowing the four by four would catch us in no time. Scully was on her feet and behind the curtain. She emerged, hauling fire power into the cab and putting it between the seats.

"Scully?"

"Just drive Mulder, they're coming fast. Get in the fast lane."

"Why?"

"So they come up on my side."

"I don't want them on your side," I cried out.

"Damn it, Mulder. You need to drive. I need to shoot. I'm better at it anyway," she threw out.

I felt a twinge at the minor insult but knew she was right. She was a better shot. I checked my mirrors. There was no traffic and I pulled quickly into the fast lane, ensuring they would have to pull up on the passenger side.

If I went all protective on her while we were 'on the job' and wanted to take all the risks myself, it would just be one more reason for her to stall a relationship with me, afraid that I would view her differently at work. I think this was one of the big reasons she'd held out this long. She was very sensitive about being treated as an equal on the job. My protective streak had nothing to do with my belief in her capabilities. I just couldn't live without her. However, I'd be lying if I said it wasn't difficult to swallow that fear and let her take the bigger risk.

Scully had her Sig Sauer in one hand and her PPK Walther in the other. Both had clips for automatic rounds. She chambered the first round in each one and waited, the wind from her open window whipped her hair around her head. She turned sideways on the seat, pulled the seat belt out and wrapped the lap belt, loose, around her waist. This allowed her to leave one knee on the seat, her other leg standing on the floor and balance her guns on the sill of the window. The seat belt acted as a harness, so she wouldn't move around too much. Man, this woman was unbelievable.

No sooner had I had that thought when I heard the first shot. I glanced at the slow lane and could see the four by four level with us and coming into the center lane. Scully began to fire. I heard the tat, tat, tat of the automatic pistol, the shattering of glass. At this point I heard a bullet hit the metal in the cab and she jerked back inside, twisting and pressing her back to the back rest. The seat belt prevented her from falling backwards. Clever woman.

I felt panic wash over me. "Are you hit?" I nearly screamed.

She shouted back, "No!"

Then she was swinging her body back into the window. "Mulder, hand me the grenade launcher."

I reached down, tossing guns to the side and found the grenade launcher and hoisted it with one hand, my adrenaline pumping as I kept looking back at the road to make sure there was nothing in our way.

I heard another tire blow and watched in the mirror as rubber peeled away from the hub and left a strip on the pavement. The four by four had to swerve to miss it.

I could feel the load was unbalanced now with two tires blown but I kept my foot to floor and nudged the rig up to 75 miles an hour. Thank God they'd turned off the governor on this thing. If we'd only been able to do 55 or 65 miles an hour, we'd be toast.

We hit a small decline in the road and I kept my foot to the floor. We edged up to 80 miles an hour. I was frantically scanning the road ahead, waiting for the inevitable traffic that I knew we had to hit eventually. But they had chosen their spot well. There was nothing for miles on this stretch of road. I did see one exit sign ahead.

"Here comes the bastard, Mulder. Hold it steady!" Scully shouted.

I gripped the wheel so tight my knuckles turned white and I held my breath, slightly compensating as I felt the trailer sway under the uneven support of its tires.

The roar of the rig's engine, the whine of the tires on the pavement and the wind whipping through the cab filled my ears as I felt the color drain from my face. Jesus Christ, I thought. We could die here. I said a silent prayer, 'Please let us get out of this. Not yet, it can't be our time yet.'

Then I concentrated on the road. Five seconds later I heard Scully's voice. It
was nearly lost in all the noise, but I could swear she said, "Hasta la vista, bastards."

Her body jerked back in her makeshift seatbelt harness as the grenade launcher went off, firing its deadly load out the window. I cringed when I heard the explosion and the trailer began to fishtail. "Oh shit!" I shouted, and concentrated on getting the rig under control. I let off the gas I looked in the rear view and pulled into the center lane. The four by four was a huge fireball in the middle of the three lane highway.

I watched as it grew smaller in the mirrors and saw the car pull up beside it. Guess there was nothing wrong with it after all. I could see the figure of the girl and another man jump out of the car and then jump back as the four by four greeted them with another explosion.

Scully flopped boneless into the passenger seat and dropped her guns on the floor between her feet.

She gripped the dash and breathed heavily through her pursed lips. "You all right?" I asked.

"Yeah, just need to catch my breath. We need to call that in."

"Yeah, I'm not in a hurry, though."

She sat up and looked in the side mirror. "Shit!"

"What?" I asked.

"The car - it's still coming!"

"Fuck!" I shouted. I scanned the road ahead.

"Yermo Road, take the Yermo Road exit," she screamed and gestured frantically toward the exit at the bottom of the slight hill we were barreling down. She rolled up her window and braced herself for a bumpy ride.

I cut the wheel hard and felt the load shift again and the trailer fish tail as I slid off the exit, hitting the brakes. I pulled onto the state road, which was also deserted but thankfully populated by a cover of abandoned warehouses and businesses, and followed the signs. A half mile later I slowed to the speed limit and continued east.

"Get on the horn, Scully. Maybe the local police can stop that car."

"Do you think they saw us take the exit?" she asked.

"I don't know. No sign of them yet, but I'm not ready to stop and watch for them."

I stepped on the gas again and shifted into the higher gears, edging the rig up as I watched the speedometer. "Careful, Mulder, we need to have those tires replaced. The last thing we need right now is to jackknife the trailer."

"I know, but it's straight road here, and as long as it is, I'm pushing
it."

"Got my vote," she said as she leaned back and closed her eyes.

"You were great back there, Scully."

"Thanks," she said quietly.

"Glad you're on my side," I muttered. My protective streak had nothing to do with her prowess. She was probably more capable than I in many ways. It was my fear of losing her that made my jealousy and my protectiveness rear their ugly heads.

She laughed then and the sound was musical. We weren't out of danger yet, we knew, but I felt relief that we had escaped death one more time. She reluctantly sat up and began to type on the satellite.

I pulled out my cell phone and called the local police, telling them to put out an APB on that red mustang and to clean up the four by four that had exploded on the highway. They wanted more answers than I could give them, so I gave them Skinner's number and then I called him.

He riddled me with questions and I told him where we were and the alternate route we were taking at the moment. He said he would have unmarked CHPs in the vicinity monitor us until we reached our destination.

We kept driving until the satellite beeped and Ken Casey from Global-Tech sent a message that the girl, Cheryl Rainy, and a man, Nate Colder, had been picked up and taken into custody for questioning.

I breathed a sigh of relief and glanced at Scully. She was booting up the computer the guys had given us.

XXXXXXXXXX

"What are you doing, Scully?" Mulder asked as I waited for the computer to boot up.

"Looking for an alternate route for us, Mulder. I don't want to get back on I15 and I seem to remember there was another interstate that fed into Barstow just south of here," I said as I began to zoom in on the map I had pulled up.

Within moments I had a new route mapped out for us and logged in on the satellite router. We were going to follow Yermo Road as it ran parallel to the interstate for a few miles past Toomey. I shuddered as I thought of our own experience with Eugene Tooms, but didn't mention it to Mulder. He would make the connection himself.

When we reached Minneola Road we would turn south through Minneola, CA and on down Hidden Springs Road to the I40 interchange, heading southwest again. Hopefully there would not be a problem with the local police about our rig on these back roads. As long as there were no low bridges, we should be fine.

I breathed a deep sigh of relief and got a snootful of Mulderscent. I knew I should be concentrating on our survival, but all I could think of was sex. Sex with Mulder. Mulder, naked and lying under me as I caressed him with my hands and my tongue. I wanted to rub my face all over him. I wanted to lick away the sweat that I could smell dripping down his chest.

I was trying not to let Mulder see my agitation. I was sitting absolutely still, concentrating on calming my need, my desire. I didn't think I had ever felt this aggressive, this needy before. But even as I consciously thought that, I realized that I was wrong.

First Person Shooter. After our escape from the virtual bitch, Maitreya, I'd had this feeling. It had made me edgy, unsettled, horny. At that time I was afraid of it overpowering my control and exposing my emotions to Mulder.

I ran.

I hid behind my cool faade and distain of male testosterone-driven bonding rituals and ran as fast and as far as I could. Right to my motel room. Right to the shower; the icy, cold shower. By morning, my emotions were well-buried. I was once again Special Agent Scully instead of Scully, Warrior Princess. I had run all the way back to myself.

I couldn't run now. I was confined in the cab of an 80,000 pound rocket, two tires short of being safe. Held immobile by fear and a seatbelt that Mulder had tightened to the point of discomfort, without ever laying a hand on me. This had to end. I closed my eyes and tried to breathe normally.

I was beginning to think he might be right. Our lives were in danger and I wanted to get laid instead of figuring out what to do next. If that wasn't distraction, I didn't know what was.

XXXXXXXXXX

As soon as we were back on I40, I decided to pull off at the first full-service truck stop I saw. Scully and I both needed showers and food and a minute to get our bearings. There was a garage there and I pulled up and asked the mechanic to replace the two blown tires on the trailer.

He raised an eyebrow, wondering, I'm sure what had shredded them so completely. I offered no answers and Scully appeared, plopping clean clothes and a towel along with a plastic case with soap into my hands.

We made our way to the showers without saying anything. Scully suggested that we eat dinner before we went back to the rig; who knew when we would have a chance again if there were others out there after us.

We needed to discuss what to do now. We decided to make some more phone calls and find out what was going on in the outside world. I didn't want to stumble into anything unaware. We went back to the rig and paid for the new tires with the Global Tech credit card that was specifically for repairs.

We climbed into the cab and locked up carefully. We pulled away from the shop and into a sparsely populated section of the parking lot that had a direct exit nearby. We cleaned the guns and I put them away, leaving two out in cubby holes near the bunk for easy access. We cleaned up again. I stripped down to my boxers and crawled into the bunk after flipping it out.

Scully eyed me dubiously and I said, "I need to hold you, Scully."

She nodded and gave no more protest as she shed her clothes, leaving on her camisole and panties and sliding under the covers with me. I pulled her against me and kissed her hair. "I was so scared, Scully. So scared we were gonna die."

"I know," she whispered. "But we didn't."

"No, but what if ..."

"What if what?"

"I'm just wondering if ... you died ..." my voice broke off. "And we never got the chance to ... be together. I'd regret that for the rest of my life."

"You were thinking about sex at a time like that?" she asked, unsurprised at my train of thought.

I sighed. "It's not about sex, Scully, not really. It's about losing chances, about being as close to someone you love as you can be. I want that for us and I don't ever want to have to say 'it's too late now'."

She kissed my chest and snuggled closer. "I love you, Mulder."

"I love you too, Scully. Today was too close. I was all ready to help that girl without asking questions. You were more suspicious and more observant. You saved our asses again. A few more seconds and one of us would have taken a bullet."

She swallowed harshly. "Yeah, but I'm the one that stopped to help her. It was a classic ploy, damsel in distress. You fell for it like most guys would. I'm a woman. I wasn't as quick to be lulled into a false sense of security. I wasn't sure at first. She seemed legit, but something about the picture just didn't ring true for me. I still stopped."

"What do you think caused the smoke?" I asked idly as I ran my fingers through her hair.

"I don't know. Could have been dry ice. Could have been anything. Good set-up, though."

"At least we know how they lured the others. No more stopping for damsels in distress."

"Yeah, one hooker and one hijacker is plenty for this trip, don't you think?"

I chuckled then. "Sleep, Scully. We have a busy day tomorrow."

XXXXXXXXXX

PART 12 (NC-17)
AMERICAN EAGLE TRUCK STOP
I40, NEAR BARSTOW, CALIFORNIA

Mulder pulled me closer and heaved a huge sigh. I could feel the fear and tension still controlling him. I thought about his words, and decided that he was right. It wasn't just about sex. It was about losing chances, about being as close to someone you love as you can be.

I wanted that for us, too, I decided. I didn't ever want to say it was too late. I kept thinking about it being too late, of never sharing my life with Mulder and I began to tremble. I was lying so close to him that I could feel the heat his fear generated, but I was suddenly as cold as ice. The stress of my earlier shoot out and close call was now catching up to me as I began to relax.

The trembling escalated to tremors and the tremors quickly turned into full body shuddering that identified the onset of shock.

"Hey," Mulder said as he pulled me even closer to his heat. "Are you going to be all right, Scully?"

"Don't know," was all I could say between my clenched teeth.

"Scully, you're scaring me. Are you going into shock?"

I nodded and he pulled me even closer.

"What can I do?"

"Blankets," I managed to say. "Warm."

Mulder reached into one of the bins above the bed and pulled out a few light blankets and started to wrap me up. I pulled away and stripped off my clothes, then pulled at his boxers. He got the hint right away. Skin contact under blankets was one of the quickest ways to generate body heat.

"Anything you say, Dr. Scully," he grinned as he pulled the blankets around us and tucked me into the curve of his body. "Anything in the interest of science."

I snuggled against his chest and raised the blanket so that it almost covered my entire head. I knew I had pulled them off Mulder's feet, but didn't think he would mind. He was going to be roasting in just a minute or two, but I was still shivering with delayed reaction.

I ran my icy hands over his body and even though he flinched and moved away a time or two, he let me do anything I needed to warm up.

I could feel the tremors lessening as my temperature rose. The skin under my fingertips became heated, and the heat seemed to flow from his body straight to my heart.

I found myself stroking him rather than rubbing him. I noticed the different textures of his skin. Here it was silky. Here it was still smooth, but the strength it covered gave it a different feel.

My breathing started to speed up again. I was naked in Mulder's arms and the only danger of shock I was in now was the shock I would feel if I tried to move away from him.

My hands smoothed down his chest, past his ridged abdomen and further down, tracing the line of hair that began on his chest. My fingers brushed against his navel and he inhaled deeply and let out a moan of pleasure. My lips followed my hands.

"Scully? What's..."

I slid back up his body quickly and placed my lips on his, effectively stopping his words.

"Shhhh," I said. "Let me."

Mulder groaned and let me continue my exploration.

I again traced the hair down his abdomen to his cock. I ran my fingers through the hair that surrounded it. It was as silky as the hair on his head. I kissed around his navel and turned to rest my cheek on him. I inhaled deeply and the musk of an aroused Mulder made me wet.

I lifted my head and rubbed my face against the length of his arousal. Mulder pulled me up to his eye level and shook his head.

"Scully, God, not here. I want you. I want you more than I want my next breath, but not here. Not in this truck surrounded by danger."

I slid my hand down and wrapped my fingers around his pulsing cock.

"Scully.... please," he groaned.

I didn't know if he wanted me to continue or to stop. I didn't care. Stopping was no longer an option. We were both in love with each other. The only time I can remember ever having an option to stop loving Mulder was right after our first case together. I could have run away then, if I had gone straight from the airport to Blevins' office and turned in my request for transfer.

By the time I had arrived home and had to put up with Ethan for the evening, it was already too late.

Ethan was supposed to be perfect for me. My parents loved him, my brothers loved him, Melissa didn't hate him, and he was Catholic. He was from an old Navy family, so he understood me like very few people ever would. I had enjoyed dating him and had eventually felt comfortable enough to share my body with him. He claimed he loved me and was ready for a commitment.

But at the end of the evening when we were making love, I knew that Ethan was not the man for me. I kept comparing him to Mulder. He wasn't nearly as intriguing and he was blatantly predictable. He wasn't as handsome as Mulder, he wasn't as smart as Mulder. He was a chameleon, allowing the priorities and beliefs of others to drive his life, again, very unlike Mulder. He had a very comfortable way about him when we made love, but I didn't want comfortable.

I wanted wild. I wanted passion to balance the prim and proper way I needed to act at work, to make it in a man's world. I wanted Mulder.

I wanted Mulder then, before I even knew him as completely as I do now. I wanted him now, but I realized that he was right. I wanted our first time to be special. I wanted to be able to look back on our first night together and smile with happiness, not laugh at how typical it was for the agents on the X-Files.

I wanted him before I loved him and I waited. I loved him and I wanted him now, but I would still wait. At least, I'd wait for our first experience at intercourse. Nothing was going to stop me from a lot of heavy petting or maybe some mutual masturbation. There was more than way of making love.

I could have lost him today. Right now, I wanted to be as close to him as I could be without actually having intercourse.

I didn't think I was going to have a problem making him see things my way.

XXXXXXXXXX NC-17 PORTION XXXXXXXXXX

"Mulder, I want to make love with you. I know we should wait, but I need to touch you, connect with you tonight. Please let me..." I lowered my mouth to his cock and kissed the entire length of it. I let my tongue swirl over the tip and back down to his balls. I wrapped my fingers around the base of his erection and slowly began to slide my hand up and down as I let my tongue lap at the precum that was leaking from the tip.

"Scully! Oh shit! Don't... Stop... Don't stop! Plea... ungh!"

I smiled as I wrapped my lips around the girth of him and slid down as far as I could. He was too large for me to deep throat, hell, for most women, but I knew from the moans of pleasure that he made that I was
doing something right. God, he was thick, too.

My thighs were wet with the proof of my arousal. Giving head to Mulder was turning me on. The texture of the hairs on the tops of his legs was turning my nipples into sharp points of pleasure/pain as they jostled and bobbed against him with each nod of my head.

Mulder wrapped my hair around his hands and I was somewhat fearful that he was going to try to guide my motions. But what he did was so sensual, I almost came right then and there.

It felt like his fingers were worshipping me. Softly, slowly sliding through strands of my hair to my scalp and back. He was caressing each curl and strand as if it was precious and rare. Occasionally his fingertips would caress my cheek. Each touch was as thrilling as a kiss. Each moan or sigh from him excited me, drove me to a higher level of arousal.

I shifted my leg and straddled his. He lifted his knee enough to bring his leg into contact with my sex. I groaned my pleasure. I began to stroke his cock faster and let my tongue and lips tease his tip. My cheeks hollowed as I applied more suction.

Mulder curled up, flexing his abs and gasped, "Scully, I need to watch. I want to see your lips wrapped around me." With that he scooted back to prop his shoulders against the side of the bunk and reached up to turn on one of the small map lamps on the wall.

I slowed my movements, but never let him leave my possession.

I looked up and saw everything I ever wanted in his eyes. Love, desire, respect, understanding, acceptance. It was all there. There in the eyes of the man I loved.

He gently slid his fingers into my hair again and soon was lost in the sensual rhythm of my assault. I had never enjoyed giving oral sex this much before. I knew that I had never initiated it, and I had never followed through to completion with any other man. But this wasn't just a man. This was Mulder. My man.

I felt his body tense and his balls tightened in my grasp. I knew he was close. He tried to speak, but was beyond words.

"Sc... Scu... Dana, gonna... cum...!" he gasped.

I didn't slow or stop to talk, all I did was match his moan with one of my own and he was lost.

The sound that roared from him made no sense to anyone but me. It was a sound of triumph, surrender and love. It was magnificent.

His cum shot into my mouth in fast spurts. I was amazed at how much there was. I knew he had been masturbating regularly so he wasn't storing it up. It wasn't hot like all the romance novels stated. It was, after all, 98.6 degrees, just like all normal body fluids. As a doctor I knew this, but it still was a surprise. It was salty and tangy, and not unpleasant tasting. It was proof of his desire for me. It was heavenly.

As I licked and nuzzled his cock, trying to extend his pleasure, I realized that I was rubbing my sex against his leg. I was so close to coming myself.

Mulder scooted back down and reached up to pull me over him, but I stroked my clit back down his leg, moving my body into position to take full advantage of his.

"Scully, baby, c'mer." I could tell he was almost asleep, but was fighting to stay awake.

"Shhhh, Mulder. It's okay, go to sleep."

"Nuhuh. Wanna make you happy," he slurred.

I began rubbing my clit against the top of his thigh, and leaned forward to lick the sweat on his chest as I did. He realized what I was doing then and brought both of his hands to my breasts. He began to stroke and rub, then pinch my nipples. In a matter of moments, I came.

"Mulllddderrrr," I groaned.

"Jesus, Scully. Oh, baby," he sighed.

XXXXXXXXXXX END NC-17 PORTION XXXXXXXXXX

I climbed up his body and reached up to turn off the light. He caught my nipple with his lips and gave it a suck and a kiss. I could tell he was at the end of his endurance. Everything we had been through that day was draining us both. We needed to sleep.

So we did.

XXXXXXXXXXX

The next morning we pulled out early, but stopped in Barstow at a pay phone to call the guys. We had discussed it over breakfast and decided that we wanted them to bug some of the computers, if they could, so that we could track them after delivery.

Mulder gave them the okay to charge the plane reservations for all three of them on his charge account. They called back and let us know that they were all on different flights and would join us at the Super 8 Motel in Escondido. We would be near the delivery destination and they could converge from the various airports without the fear of being followed.

The rest of the day was easy. That is, if you called traffic in and around Los Angeles and San Diego easy.

We pulled into the Super 8 and checked in by dinner time. Byers was already there. His room was to be tech central. Langly showed up around 7:00PM and together they assembled some of the equipment they carried.

Frohike showed up after 10:00PM. His eyes were bloodshot and he had a silly grin on his face, but he had the supplies we needed to complete our little project.

"Damn, Frohike, what did you have to do? Drink somebody under the table to get this stuff?" Langly grimaced as he got a whiff of Frohike.

"Jus' a few drinks with an ol' bud to talk over ol' times," Frohike insisted, just before he passed out on the empty bed.

"Did he get the right stuff?" Mulder asked. "Why did he have to pick some of it up here? Didn't you guys have what we needed?"

"Yeah, he got the rest of it," Byers answered, "But we couldn't get some of this stuff through airport security. We had to get the electronics locally."

"Yeah," Langly interjected. "And Frohike had the connections we needed."

"Looks like they go way back," Mulder grinned.

"What's your time table, guys?" I asked. We were on a tight schedule to deliver on time, after stopping last night.

"We'll be able to assemble the bugs and calibrate them in a couple hours. Frohike should be awake by then. He's our B&E man."

I must have looked lost to Byers because he said, "Breaking and Entering man, Agent Scully. Frohike was a truck driver years ago and knows how to open the trailer doors and seal them back up so that the official seals don't look tampered with."

"Why don't you go on up to our room, Scully, and sleep. I'll help the guys. I'll be back to get you and you can drive us on in to San Diego."

"Where do you think you're going without me?" I asked, suddenly uncomfortable with being separated.

"Just down the road to a less trafficked area, Agent Scully. We don't need an audience for our activities, do we?" Byers teased.

I blushed as I agreed. Mulder wrapped his arm around my shoulder and said, "I'll walk with you."

I said goodnight to the guys and turned to leave. Mulder did not release me from his embrace, walking beside me as we left.

The door was not entirely shut and both of us heard Langly's next words.

"I told you they were doing it."

"Shhhh, they'll hear you," Byers immediately replied. "If they are or they're not is none of our business."

"Yeah, but Frohike will be pissed."

"Don't you think he already knows? Have you ever seen him drink with a business contact before?"

Langly's words were lost as the door shut and we moved on down the hall.

"Sorry, Scully," Mulder whispered into my ear.

"It's all right, Mulder. Even though they're wrong about the actual happenings, the feelings are true," I smiled up into his eyes.

"I love you, Scully. We've got to talk about what happened last night..." he started.

"Love. Love happened last night, Mulder. That's all. I wanted to be as close to you as I could be and yet I agreed that I didn't want our first time to be in the bunk. It was a simple choice. I chose love."

We were at our door and Mulder leaned in to kiss me. "I can't stay, or I'll never get back to help the guys. Sleep well, Scully."

"Hurry back, Phoenix," I said.

"Why do you call me that so often?" he asked.

I stood up on my tiptoes and let my lips brush his ear as I whispered, "Because I really hate the name Marty. I'd rather think of the phoenix tattoo and remind you of how our lives are now intertwined."

Mulder jerked me against him and buried his face in the curve of my neck. "I love the way you think, Scully. I can't get used to calling you Dana, either. What's wrong with that picture? But when it's just us, we can use Mulder and Scully. Just be careful to call me Marty or by my handle in public where someone might overhear us." He released me and opened the door. After he checked every room and made sure I would be safe while he was gone, he kissed me goodbye and left.

I normally would have been irritated at his display of protective behavior, but after almost being killed yesterday, I couldn't find it in me to be angry.

XXXXXXXXXX

Time was of the essence and I was anxious to get back to Scully. I wondered if we would have another session of oral sex tonight. I owed her more than a dry hump against my thigh. I groaned inwardly as I realized how out of it I'd been afterwards and how I may have seemed unappreciative. I'd been worried she would regret it, but at least that wasn't the case. Fantasy No. 3 was complete, having seen her swollen red lips wrapped around my aching cock. Sure beat the hell out of whacking off. My palms were getting mighty hairy.

As I jogged back to Byers' room, I realized I was grinning, remembering last night's intimacy. I had always prided myself on seeking the truth, and now one of the biggest truths I had pondered for years had been revealed to me. Scully swallows. Fuck. Who'd of thought it? Did pondering such things make me a pig? It took a concerted effort for me to wipe the grin from my face before joining the guys, but I managed.

Once the bugs were assembled, we all boarded the truck and carefully disassembled the computer boxes one by one, and Langly and Byers went quickly and efficiently through them, placing bugs inside the computer towers near the mother boards. It was all beyond my comprehension. Although still tipsy, Frohike was the look out, not because he was the most alert at the moment, but because he wasn't capable of much else.

Even with their expertise and efficiency, it took a few hours, and then we had to put each one carefully back into the box and re-tape it so it didn't look like it had been disturbed.

I thanked the guys profusely as Frohike sealed up the trailer again with the red seals. We went to Byers' room and I helped them pack up the equipment they were taking back with them.

As they were getting ready to leave, Frohike asked, "Mulder?"

"Yeah, what's up?"

"I know it's none of my business but ..."

"What do you want to know, Frohike?" I asked with a resigned sigh, knowing what was coming. I wouldn't lie to the guys but I wasn't about to give any details that were none of their business either. Our relationship was at a very delicate stage right now.

"Are you two ... together now?"

"Together?"

"You know what I mean, Mulder."

"Are we a couple?"

"Yeah, I mean, I know you love her ..."

"Yes, I do," I admitted. I was surprised at how easy it was to say it and I could tell Langly and Byers were a little surprised at my easy admission as well.

Frohike swallowed. "I don't even know what I'm asking," he said finally.

We were all silent for a few minutes and finally, I said, "Frohike, I love her. She says she loves me. We're together but ... easing our way into it ... the intimacy part."

His face asked the question he really wanted to ask. I wasn't sure if I should say anything. Technically, it was none of his business. On the other hand, I knew his asking had no malicious intent. I knew he wouldn't use it against her or me later. I also knew that he loved her too.

"Forget it," he said and turned toward the door. They all made moves to leave.

"This doesn't go outside this room," I said, stopping them all. They all turned to face me and nodded.

"I know what you're asking Frohike. It's none of your business." He opened his mouth and I held up my hand to forestall his objections or denials. "I'll tell you anyway, because I know you're not asking to have fodder for gossip. I know you're asking because you care about her."

He nodded. I held his gaze for a few moments. "I haven't slept with her yet," I said softly.

He took a deep breath. I couldn't tell if he was surprised or relieved by the news, or feeling something else entirely. His face gave away nothing.

I continued. "Will we be together that way?" I paused. "I think so, probably soon, but it's her call. It's always been her call."

He nodded. "I care about you too, Mulder, you know that, it's just ..."

"I know," I said, acknowledging what he wasn't saying. He'd loved her for a long time. Everybody in the room knew it.

"You don't deserve her, Mulder," he said, and I knew he didn't mean it as the insult that it sounded like.

"Frohike," Byers said with a censure in his voice. I held up my hand to stall his comment.

"I know that too. Nobody knows it better than me, Frohike. But I do love her and I can't just turn that off. You know that as well as I do. She's the most important person in the world to me. You know that too."

"Take good care of her, Mulder. I don't mean just on the job."

I nodded. After another pause I stared at him again. "I won't hurt her, Frohike, if that's what you're worried about."

"Not intentionally," he murmured.

"What we do is dangerous, but it's not my choice to have her do this job. It's what she does. She'd do it whether I was in the picture or not. And I'd rather be here to watch her back ... than have someone else doing it."

"That's not what I meant," he said quietly.

I swallowed. "What did you mean?"

"I mean don't break her heart."

"You think I could break her heart?" I asked incredulously.

"I know you could," he said with confidence. "I don't think you realize how everything you do affects her. All the chances you take. It hits her deep, even if she doesn't show it."

I shook my head. "No, you're wrong about that, Frohike. I'm incapable of hurting her that way. I would never do anything to hurt her like that. I would never ... wander. And I stopped ditching her a long time ago. I don't even want anyone else. I haven't wanted anyone but her for so long ... I don't even remember what it was like to be attracted to someone else. No, if anyone's heart gets broken, it's going to be mine."

"Promise?" he asked, a quirky, sad smile on his face.

"I promise," I responded.

Frohike and Langly left to go to their respective rooms, and I hurried to Scully's room, anxious to be with her again, to hold her and feel her next to me. I was so tired from moving all the boxes and pallets by myself, but realized I smelled. I would need a shower first.

XXXXXXXXXX

It was after 2:00 AM when Mulder came back to the room. I was still sleeping soundly and didn't hear him enter. I woke to the sound of the shower.

I was trying to decide whether to join him or to let him have his privacy when I realized I was naked and walking towards the bathroom door. Well, that was settled.

Mulder was tired, leaning against the shower wall, letting the hot water ease the aches in his muscles.

"Hey, need help?" I asked softly.

"Scully. Your help is always wanted," he gave me a tired smile.

I washed his hair and helped him as he finished his shower. I quickly washed my hair and rinsed off with him. He was asleep on his feet. It made me smile to see him actually fighting sleep for a change.

"This isn't funny, Scully. I'm never going to be able to sleep alone again," he said as he draped his body over mine while I tried to dry him.

"Who said you had to?" My reply perked him up enough to make it to the bed. He crashed, naked, across the bed. I watched him while I dried off and contemplated what to do about asserting some sleeping space of my own. I was grinning again. I didn't need a 'side' of the bed! I would sleep on Mulder.

XXXXXXXXXX

We were up and out the door by 6:30 AM. I was amazed at what three hours sleep could do for Mulder.

"I've lived on three hours of sleep a night for years, Scully. It's normal for me. All this sleeping I've been doing while traveling with you is abnormal." Mulder finished his gargantuan breakfast and put the money down for the meal. I noticed this job had increased his appetite as well. Must be all the fresh air.

The waitress had just grabbed the money and the tab when the Gunmen joined us.

Byers and Langly looked sleepy but normal. Byers in his suit, Langly in his black Ramones tee shirt and jeans. Frohike looked like death warmed over.

Mulder's cheerful greeting invoked dark looks from all three of our friends. I laughed. After the waitress brought them coffee and orange juice, they actually started to look human; well, Byers and Langly did.

Mulder and the guys filled me in on what they had done the night before. Not only had they bugged a sampling of all the computers, but they had altered our satellite responder to allow us to use the laptop to send out false readings. Now we could escape the hijackers if they were using their connection to Global-Tech to find us. No wonder Mulder was tired. His part had been to move all the pallets of computers so that the guys had access to the entire load.

I was dutifully impressed by their ingenuity and told them so. My words of praise seemed to do more for Frohike than the black coffee and toast he had been eating.

I picked up our receipt and stood up. It was time to go. We had a 10:00 AM appointment to deliver and we were going to be doing well to make it.

Mulder stood beside me as we told the guy thanks again. Byers stood up as his good manners demanded. Langly sprawled in his chair and gave us a, "Later, dudes."

Frohike stood up and came around the table to say good bye. He picked up my hand and kissed the back of it before saying, "May I say that you are looking disgustingly perky and happy today, Dana?" His sharp little eyes sparkled behind his glasses, as he shot Mulder a glance I couldn't quite read. Approval?

"That's a compliment I would accept only from you, Frohike," I said as I kissed him on the cheek. I knew he was trying to accept my newly defined relationship with Mulder and wanted to give me his somewhat strange blessing. He smiled and blushed at my words.

"You take care of her, or I'll kick your ass," was his remark to Mulder.

"With my life." Mulder's reply seemed to assure him.

As we turned to leave I heard Frohike telling the waitress to 'get your pretty parts over here. What kind of breakfast is toast for a real man, anyway?'

XXXXXXXXXX

I jumped out and got the bay number for our delivery. The dock manager was gruff but helpful, and I crossed him off the list of involved personnel.

Mulder had the rig backed up to the dock and the seals were broken without a question. The dock plate was already in place when the manager of the warehouse came charging up on a skateboard. I thought I had seen it all. Warehouses ranged from small to millions of square feet and we had seen every mode of transportation used from bicycles to golf carts. This was our first skateboard.

"What are you doing here?" he demanded. "I have a truck scheduled in from Seattle at this dock," he informed us as he slid sideways to a stop, hopped off, tapped the board with his toe and flipped it upright neatly catching the opposite end in his hand. It was an impressive move. His manners, however, were decidedly less impressive.

The dock supervisor rode up on his bike and interceded. "I told them to use this dock. It's on the schedule for them. They have the right papers. What's going on, Dave?"

Dave backed off immediately. "Oh, I must have double booked. Sorry, Bud." He started to retreat when Mulder spoke up.

"I'd better call my dispatch and confirm that I was supposed to drop this load here. Can I use the phone in your office? My cell seems to be in a dead zone here."

"We have a pay phone by the break room you can use. No drivers in the office," Dave said as he took off.

Mulder asked Bud where the break room was and we headed in that direction. "We've got to get in that office," Mulder said quietly to me as we walked. "I need to find out the phone numbers in there so the guys can monitor all the calls out."

"Let me see what I can do," I said as I walked towards the ladies bathroom. Just as I suspected. It was filthy. I turned around and walked into the office as if I were invited.

There was an older red head sitting outside Dave's office. I walked up to her, and smiled.

"Ms. Willis?" Her name was on her desk plate.

"Jeannine. What can I do for you?" Her smile was small but friendly.

"I'm here with my husband to unload, and I went into the restroom out by the break room. I was uh... wondering if I could use the staff facilities. That one is uh... kinda dirty. Men are such pigs, sometimes." I put on my best clueless impersonation.

"Sure, honey, right back down that hall past the water cooler."

"Thanks!" I grinned.

"Anything for a fellow red-head," she smiled back.

I had to stifle the urge to laugh out loud. I'm sure her red came from a bottle, but I was in and I wasn't going to insult her.

I used the facilities and walked back to thank her. I could hear Dave in his office yelling at some one. I glanced at the phone on Jeannine's desk and saw the light lit under his name. The last four digits of the phone number were there and I committed them to memory.

"I was wondering if I could make a local call?" I said.

"We have a payphone for drivers out by the break room..." she started.

"I know. But... you see, I don't really want Marty to know that I'm calling my brother's house. They don't get along and I try not to piss him off, but I need to see my family, ya know?"

I could see that she was wavering, and I pushed again. "I have the sweetest little nephew and I'm missing his entire childhood. Since I can't have any of my own, he's the closest thing I have to a baby in my life."

Tears had sprung up in my eyes. I wasn't acting; my words were true. I purposely used my emotions to sway her to let me use the phone.

"Sure, honey, I understand," she said with a sigh. "You can use the phone over in the corner. Just don't let Dave catch you. Although with the screaming match he's having in there, I don't think it will be a problem."

I got Bill & Tara's answering machine, as I knew I would at this time of day. I asked Jeannine what the area code and prefix for the number there was to leave on the message machine and she gave it to me.

I thanked her and asked her to please page me if Tara called in the next few minutes before we left. She patted my hand and said she would do what she could.

Mission accomplished. I went back to the truck and signaled Mulder. I got into the bunk and called the gunmen, giving them the number to check. I climbed down into the driver's seat and finished our log and satellite information for the delivery. Just as I was getting ready to log off the satellite, a message came through for us to call Global-Tech Logistics and a number was given that I had never seen before. I wrote it down and climbed out to find Mulder.

"We have a message from Global-Tech," I said as I handed him the number.

"Dispatch?" he glanced at the number.

"No, this is a new one. I've never seen it before. What do you want to bet that it's the same number our friend Dave was calling a few minutes ago?"

Mulder smiled at me and jogged away to call the number. He looked upset when he came back. I had a feeling I knew why before he even spoke.

"It was Deirdre. She wants us to keep part of the load on and deliver it to San Francisco. She gave me specific instructions about our route. She will put the information through to dispatch right away."

"Mul... Marty, I'm sorry," I said. And I was. Mulder's trust in Diana Fowley had been destroyed completely. The consortium was obviously a family business. She had to have been lying from the very beginning of their relationship. No one deserved that kind of betrayal.

"I'm okay, but it was close for a second there. She asked if we had ever met before. I sounded like an acquaintance of hers. I asked her if she had grown up in Ohio and made a pass at her. I think it threw her off the track. She obviously knew that we were a married team because she made a remark about giving her best to my wife before she hung up."

"That was quick thinking, partner," I grinned.

"Yeah, well, I've found most women will rebuff a man that they think is married, especially when he's across the country from them and they're planning to have him and his wife killed in the next couple of days." Mulder said bitterly.

"I hope she really didn't know it was us."

"Me too," he said.

Dave came rolling up on his skateboard. "Tanner, new information was just given to us by your dispatch from Logistics Department. You're to take half of the load you brought in on up to San Francisco."

"Yeah, I just got off the phone with Global-Tech. As soon as the paperwork is faxed, we'll be on our way. Do you want me to pull away from the dock so your Seattle in-bound can get in?" Mulder was playing him like a fish.

"Yeah, he's out in the lot right now. Bud will let you know when you're unloaded and can pull away." Dave hurried back to the office.

Mulder and I turned to go back to the rig. I glanced at him and saw the smile he was trying to hide. I gave him a quizzical look.

"There's something basically wrong with a skateboarder running a warehouse, don't you think, Dana?"

I just smiled and nodded. I wanted to get back to the truck to call Tara and Bill and let them know that we didn't have time to visit. I also wanted to get back to the guys to see if the number Deirdre Fowley had given Mulder was the number Dave called earlier.

I also wondered if we could find out who the Seattle truck was driven by. But we'd already overstayed our welcome and I decided it wasn't worth the risk to ask, lest it look suspicious that we were asking too many questions.

XXXXXXXXXX

We were on the road again, I15 north towards I10 west and on up to I5 north. All interstates meant that the traffic was going to be bad until we got outside the Los Angeles metro area. Not exactly the type of place that a hijacking could take place. We were following the route given to Mulder by Fowley, but didn't expect anything to happen until we were past Bakersfield.

They guys had confirmed that Dave had contacted Fowley directly. We now had the names of three of the players in the ring and called Skinner to have search warrants standing by for them. If our hunch played out, we were being set up again. This time we weren't going to play.

We had been instructed to take I99 at the split of I5 and I99 after we passed the Grapevine. We had been driving ever since we left San Diego, stopping only for fuel and bathroom breaks. We traded off shifts, and kept on the road. I didn't like falsifying our documents, but we needed to be ahead of where our satellite was telling them we were. It could mean the difference between life and death for us.

We were about a hundred miles beyond Grapevine Peak when the CB started squawking. Hundreds of drivers were sending out warnings about an explosion and rock slide on the Grapevine. Mulder and I knew that it had been planned for us. I prayed that no one was seriously hurt.

We kept going until we found an out of the way place to stop. We fueled up and ate dinner. We found a motel room and checked in. We contacted Skinner and had him set up a stakeout of the motel we were in. The local Feds were told that we had received a tip about our load being marked for hijacking. They were to watch and follow, but not to attempt an arrest. The ringleaders needed to be found. They weren't happy, but they agreed.

When we got the word from Skinner that all the agents were in place, we reconfigured the satellite to our current location. About 2:00AM Mulder called into to dispatch and told them we were stopping for the night. The man on duty was new and he questioned us about how we had gotten around the mess on the Grapevine. He told him that we were past it when it happened, but that his wife had gotten sick and we had been resting until I felt better.

Mulder and I had picked this particular motel because it was out of the way and easy to access. He had parked the rig with the back of the trailer to an open service road. If anyone wanted to steal the load, all they had to do was break open the lock and it was theirs.

We showered and climbed into bed snuggled together. If anything happened before morning, Skinner would let us know.

XXXXXXXXXX

PART 13 (R)
SOMEWHERE PAST GRAPEVINE PEAK
CALIFORNIA

We were already up and dressed by the time Skinner called. The stakeout had been a success. The computers were snatched and on their way north on I99 with a team of agents in a helicopter following them. The thieves had relocked and sealed the door to our trailer, leaving no sign that they had unloaded the computers. The agents that remained after the hijackers left had gone over the trailer already. The fingerprints and fiber samples were on their way to the lab in Washington.

We decided to continue as if we didn't know the load was gone. Of course, any experienced trucker would know as soon as he moved that the trailer was empty by the feel of the steering. We hoped no one at Global-Tech would pick up on our ruse later and ask why we didn't suspect missing freight. Skinner had called, mad as a hornet. The helicopter tail had lost the truck in the mountains. We immediately called the guys and they were able to track the computers from San Diego. Since I5 and I99 converged in Sacramento, we decided to take I5 north instead of the route given us by Fowley. Once again we set up the satellite link to broadcast incorrect data.

We drove hard for the second day in a row. We made it to Sacramento in a little over six hours. Even the traffic around the junction of I405 didn't slow us down. As we approached Sacramento from the south, I99 and I5 again merged. We knew that the truck with the stolen computers was behind us, so we pulled off in West Sacramento after we reached I80 to let them get ahead of us.

We made a quick pit stop and fueled up, not knowing when we would get a chance again. I was paying for some sunflower seeds and a few other snacks when a voice behind me called out, "Ladybird? Is that you?"

When I turned I spotted him immediately. Cooner was a hard man to miss, even if Mulder hadn't described him to me in detail. We had yakked on the CB a time or two. He was the one that pasted Ladybird on me as a handle.

"Cooner? What are you doing here?" I smiled at the big man as he looked around for Mulder.

"Just a quick stop on the way to Frisco. Where's that man of yours?" he grinned. "Or did you off him after your last fight and take over the rig?"

I had to laugh. When Mulder and I had gone through our hard time, I was grateful that Mulder had met a man like Cooner. So many of the drivers we came in contact with were good men like him, but there were always lowlifes that came with any profession.

"He's out checking out the rig while we fuel up." I couldn't help myself when I said, "I let him live this time. I didn't even shoot him again." Let him wonder about that one.

Cooner's eyes widened but he didn't remark on my comment. "I got the wife with me and I want to introduce her to the both of you. I also want her to see his tat. I been trying to talk her into getting one, but she's dead set against it."

I could see Mulder coming in the door and knew by the look on his face he didn't recognize Cooner from the back. I smiled to let him know that I was all right and didn't notice the large woman that barreled up to me.

"Get lost, bitch. This one's taken," she glared at me and I took a step back, shifting my weight so that I would be ready for her if she actually attacked me. I realized in a flash that she probably thought I was a lot lizard despite my conservative clothes.

"Hey, sweet thing, I know this lady. She's the wife of one of my buddies. It's okay, honeybunch. You know you're the only woman for me," Cooner was soothing her.

Mulder strode up and wrapped his arm around me, sticking out his right hand to Cooner. "Hey, Cooner. Good to see you. Is this your lovely wife Alice that you told me so much about?"

I could see Alice relax as Mulder's words sunk in. If she was this territorial about the big man next to her, I no longer doubted that he was faithful to her. She looked at her man with pride and love and acceptance. I hoped that was what she saw in my eyes for Mulder. That and more.

Cooner and Mulder talked for a few minutes and decided that we would get some dinner with them. Alice apologized to me again and I had to grin.

"I know how you feel, Alice. I don't want Marty hanging around other women either. Thank goodness he feels the same way about me and other men." I grinned at Mulder as we talked.

We drove our trucks up the road to a restaurant called Vince's and had some of the best Italian food I ever ate. The minestrone soup was out of this world and it was served with fresh hot loaves of sour dough bread and butter. I could have eaten just that and been happy, but when I tasted the ravioli, I was in heaven.

Mulder ordered something called a Land, Sea and Italy. It was a small steak, done to perfection, a fried piece of cod and a healthy serving of pasta. I watched him eat every bite and start picking at my leftovers and just shook my head. He never gained an ounce.

"It kills me how these men can eat until they can't move and not gain a pound, but let me even look at dessert and I'm up five pounds," Alice said.

"I know. Marty can eat his own weight in fattening foods and still not gain a pound. Of course, he exercises a lot too."

We talked about our men for a few minutes as the subjects of our conversation caught up. I couldn't have guessed we'd make friends with an odder pair. Back in D.C., we wouldn't have traveled in the same circles at all. I was surprised at how much I was enjoying talking to another woman for a change. At work, other than a few lab people, most agents thought of me as Mrs. Spooky and avoided me like the plague, as though contact with me and the X-Files might somehow taint them. It was refreshing to gab with someone that had no preconceived idea of who you were.

I also realized how much I enjoyed being a couple and sharing friendships and other things with Mulder besides work. Socializing, for instance. It was rare we socialized with anyone other than each other or the Gunmen.

"So you think the rockslide on five was not an accident?" Mulder was asking Cooner.

"I know it wasn't. I was just coming up an incline and at the top I looked across the next hill and saw the cloud from the explosion. That was as planned as a wedding day, if you ask me," Cooner nodded to stress his point.

"What do you think they were trying to accomplish?" Mulder pumped.

Cooner took a drink of coffee and settled back in his chair. He looked around before he spoke, as if looking for an eavesdropper.

"I think it was that bunch of yeahoos that are hijacking loads of technical equipment. I don't know who they are or why they're doing it, but I've lost a couple good buddies lately. The last team they offed were both men I had worked with for years when I drove for Global-Tech."

Neither of us could hide our surprise. "You drove for Global-Tech, Cooner?" I had to ask.

"Yeah, but they shorted me on a few loads and took it out of my pay, so I hooked up with Direct Transit. They've done good by me. I've not regretted switching over," Cooner nodded to Alice. "'Sides, I get home on a regular schedule now and they let Ali come with me whenever she wants."

"Yeah, it saved our marriage," Alice interjected.

"Say, they're always looking for new driving teams, if you two are interested. Just mention my name and I get a bonus if you sign on," Cooner informed us with a grin. "Gotta keep the money flowin'."

I looked at Mulder. I knew he wanted to tell Cooner about our assignment. I wanted to trust this man, but I still felt a little uncomfortable about disclosing our assignment to him. I could tell Mulder was reading my hesitation and understood it.

He winked at me and touched his phone. I nodded back. He excused himself and I knew he was calling the guys to see if there were any surprises in Cooner's past. He was back in a few minutes with a grin on his face.

Cooner had been telling Alice about Mulder's tattoo and teasing her about getting one of her own.

"Now just what do you think my father the preacher would think about his only daughter getting a tattoo?" Alice laughed at him. "I'm sure Dana wouldn't dream of getting a tattoo. Most women wouldn't consider it."

"Marty, show Ali your tat. Come on, no one's watching," Cooner insisted.

Mulder pulled his arm out of his shirt and leaned over so Alice could see his tattoo up close. I felt the hairs on the back of my neck raise as she studied his tattoo and then the rest of his gorgeous chest that was exposed.

"I can see why you wanted me to see this, Cooner. Beautiful," she breathed.

"Yes, he is," I said. She gave me a quick glance and backed off. I knew how she felt now when she had first seen me talking to Cooner. And I knew she wasn't a real threat; just admiring the view because it was there. How would I react to someone that was really putting the make on Mulder? I shuddered to think. This was a new feeling for me, and I didn't like it. Mulder seemed to pick up on it right away. He moved closer to me and pulled his shirt on quickly.

"Thanks," he said, but he was looking at me with a silly grin on his face. It was reassuring. I realized that I trusted him. If I did, then I didn't need to trust the women that flirted with him. I could hardly blame them. I knew Mulder wasn't fickle and he had chosen me. I could thumb my nose at them and say, 'I won.'

I'd jumped to the wrong conclusion about Chloe, or Meghan or whatever her name was. I realized that my jealousy said that I didn't trust him. No wonder he'd been so hurt. But it was a deeply ingrained instinct in me to be suspicious of man's ability to resist temptation. I would need to remind myself that Mulder wasn't my father, he wasn't Ethan or Jack or Daniel. He was his own man and he was unique. That was part of why I loved him in the first place, because he was different from every other man I'd ever been involved with. And here I was treating him like every other man ... with suspicion and assumptions of the worst. It wasn't fair to him. He'd done nothing to deserve that. I resolved to be better about this sort of thing in the future.

"What'd you think honeybunch? Wouldn't you like a tat like that?" Cooner was clueless.

"I don't know, big man. That would be too big and obvious on a woman's arm. I don't know any women with tattoos unless you count the parolees in Pa's parish."

"Dana has a tattoo." Mulder said casually.

I wanted to kill him. I knew what was coming next.

"You do? Let's see!" said Alice, right away. "Unless it's in a private spot that is," she amended.

"Yeah, Dana, let's see." Cooner was intrigued.

"Marty!" I growled. I didn't want to play show and tell in a public restaurant. That's why I hadn't said anything when she first mentioned it.

"Come on Dana," Mulder teased. "It's a beaut."

I slid onto my knees in the booth and turned so that they could see my tattoo. I pulled up my shirt and I could feel Mulder's fingers pulling down the waistband of my shorts a little to uncover it completely.

"Wow! A snake eating its tail! That's a strange one, Dana. What does it mean?" Alice was curious.

"It's an Oroborus, a symbol of life's eternal circle," I said, hoping the subject could be dropped.

"What did you think about it when she first got it, Marty?" Cooner asked.

I looked into Mulder's eyes, as anxious as Cooner and Alice to hear his answer.

"She got it at a time that was hard on both of us. It was a rebellion of sorts. We weren't really together yet, but I knew she was the one for me. I think it was something she had to do, and it helped us in the end."

"How?" was my one word question. Mulder was speaking directly to me now. Cooner and Alice might as well have not been there at all.

"Every time I put my hand on your back I thought about it being there under your clothes and it reminded me of the strong independent spirit you are under your public persona. It hurt to think about it when you first got it, but eventually, I realized that everything wasn't about me," he grinned as the private moment between us spun out and memories of a rose petal and a desk filled our minds.

"Umhhh. Well, I guess that's clear as mud," Cooner joked.

I could see Mulder shake off the old memories and come back to the present. "Cooner, Dana and I aren't what you think we are."

"You're not married?" Alice asked.

"Well, no, not in the widely accepted terms of marriage. But we're together," I said.

"Cooner," Mulder started again, looking around for listeners. "Dana and I are not professional truck drivers. We're FBI and we're undercover trying to bring down the hijackers that have been killing truckers and stealing loads."

"FBI? What are you doing with that rig from Global-Tech then?" Cooner was suspicious. Mulder explained everything and Cooner and Alice listened, enthralled.

"So, you're actually an FBI agent?" Alice asked me.

"Yes," I replied.

"And a medical doctor," Mulder interjected with pride. "She's a brilliant pathologist."

Cooner and Alice exchanged a glance and then stared at me again.

"So, what..." Cooner cleared his throat. "Why did you tell me this?"

"You don't think he has something to do with the hijackers just because he used to drive for Global-Tech, do you?" Alice paled as she questioned Mulder.

"No, not at all!" Mulder quickly assured them. "We know that some of the higher ups in the ring are officials of Global-Tech. We've actually had a run in with them between Barstow and Vegas. If it hadn't been for Dana's quick thinking, we would be another set of statistics."

"And we believe that the rockslide on I5 was aimed to stop or kill us," I added. "Besides, if we suspected you were involved, you'd be the last people we'd blow our cover to. We're telling you because we trust you and it can never hurt to have another set of eyes and ears out there. Plus, we want to know if you've heard anything."

"How could they be so far off on your location?" Cooner asked.

"We have the technology to send a false signal through the satellite link," Mulder answered simply. Neither of us saw a reason to let him in on the fact that the technology didn't come from the FBI.

Mulder went on to answer Cooner's other questions. Alice listened, interjecting a question once in a while.

"So, you know that the stolen computers are on a truck that's probably passing us even as we speak?" Cooner was amazed.

"Yeah, we've got some people watching them. If they deviate from I80 west, they'll call us. We don't want to get too close to them. We can't exactly hide in a crowd with that Kenworth out there, and we don't know if they have others out there with them," Mulder replied.

"So, what do you want us to do?" Cooner finally asked.

"Nothing overt," Mulder said. "We wanted to tell you so that we could find out any information that you may remember or for that matter, not even know that you know."

We discussed the hijackings until Mulder's phone rang.

"Tanner," he said automatically. It was the guys. The truck had driven past us and was heading up I80 about 5 miles ahead of us. They didn't seem to be in any hurry, so either they didn't know that we were near them, or they didn't care. Mulder stood up, throwing down a wad of bills for our dinner.

"We need to get going," he said as Cooner and Alice exchanged glances.

"Marty, let us go with you," Cooner suggested. "We're empty right now and it'll be a couple days before we get another load. We could ride shotgun."

"No, Cooner, I can't ask you to risk your wife and rig to help us," Mulder started.

"You're not asking me, I'm asking you. I've lost some good friends to these creeps, and I don't want to lose two more. I'm going to follow you whether you like it or not."

I could tell that Mulder appreciated his thoughts, but didn't want to be responsible for a civilian during a fight.

I placed my hand on Mulder's forearm, "Alice, Cooner, we don't want to put you in harm's way. These guys tried to shoot us once already and obviously were trying to kill us again on the Grapevine. We think they're part of a larger group of men who are using the government for their own agenda. If you do this, we can't guarantee that we can protect you anymore than we are sure that we can defend ourselves."

"We understand that, Dana. It's a risk we're willing to take to help stop these guys," Alice said. "My daddy always told me that you have to work to keep the world safe for the good people. It's the way I've always lived and it's the way Cooner's always lived. We're not going to stop now."

Mulder said, "You have to agree to do everything we say ... without question. If an untrained civilian was injured because of our actions, it could mean our jobs," he said. "Hell, if they knew we blew our cover to a pair of civilians, much less took them along during a pursuit, THAT would be enough to cost us our jobs, let alone if one of you got hurt."

Cooner and Alice just nodded. Alice added, "You're the professionals. We'll follow your lead."

We left it at that. We needed to get on the road.

XXXXXXXXXX

An hour down the road, we got another call from the guys. The hijackers had turned northwest on Route 12. We signaled our turn and were not surprised to see Cooner and two other trucks follow us onto the exit ramp.

We weren't exactly under cover, but at least we wouldn't stand out as the only pursuer of the perps. I wondered who was in the other two trucks. I hoped Cooner hadn't blown our cover with anyone else.

Twenty minutes later we got another call. They had turned off on Old Sonoma Road. The guys advised us to pull over and wait for a while to see where they were headed. Their destination could be just down the road and we didn't want to over shoot them. We pulled over at a truck stop and we climbed out to talk to the other drivers.

We all convened in the coffee shop to wait for our next call. We were almost ready to take off when it came. The truck had stopped. Byers said that they were on Congress Valley Road, probably at one of the three vineyards that lined that road. The irony of the name did not escape Mulder or me.

Mulder asked the guys to get the names of the three vineyards and when they came back with the information, he knew right away which one to check first.

"Starlight Vineyards," Mulder said to me. I agreed. It was too much of a coincidence to pass up. We decided to wait until dark and go in for a 'look-see', as Cooner called it.

Upon questioning, we found out that Cooner had simply said we were a couple of maverick drivers recruiting help to try and bust the hijackers since the authorities weren't having much luck. He'd hinted that we'd gotten some information through bribes of Public Utility officers. Since they all knew how susceptible they were to bribes, no one questioned that. He immediately got volunteers. Drivers were mad about losing friends and scared of losing their own lives. They wanted it to end, for better or worse.

Mulder called Skinner and apprised him of the situation. He said he would have a team meet us at the truck stop with all the gear we would need. We didn't tell him that we had all the fire power we needed.

We just needed transportation to get us in quietly.

XXXXXXXXXX

Before the team from Sacramento got there it was fully dark. Mulder and Cooner took off to reconnoiter against my wishes. Cooner had sweet talked the use of a car from one of the waitresses, much to the amusement of Ali and me.

They were gone for over an hour and I was starting to get worried. I didn't want the FBI team to get there before Mulder was back. I don't think I've ever loved the sight of a Hyundai as much as I did the moment Mulder and Cooner pulled into the parking lot in the little red car.

"That's the one. We checked out the other two vineyards while we were there. If it's one of them, I'd be surprised." Mulder said as he hugged me.

"Why?" I squeaked out. His embrace was so tight, I knew something was wrong.

"Because the Starlight Vineyard is locked up as securely as a federal prison. There are miles of razor wire surrounding fields of newly planted grapes. If that's a producing vineyard, I'm a spook from the CIA."

"Ooookay. Now, tell me the rest," I looked deeply into his eyes until he dropped his glance. He took my hand and moved us away from the rest of the group.

"Mulder," I whispered. "You're scaring me."

"Scully. We saw dogs and guards everywhere around the building. I had the night vision binoculars the guys left for me and I was checking out the doors. There's only two that can be seen from the road."

I didn't reply. I knew he hadn't come to the hard part yet. "One of the guards led a man out that looked familiar. He took him out into the field and shot him."

"Oh my God! Mulder who was it?"

"It was one of the Kurt Crawfords, Scully. He melted away, just like the others when he was killed, only slower than a ... pure breed. I had a hard time stopping Cooner from rushing the guard to stop the execution, but I knew what would happen. Cooner would have been shot or killed by the toxic fumes from the Kurt."

"Mulder, if there was one Kurt Crawford, there's probably more. Didn't you say that they were the lab technicians at the tanks for the clones?"

"Yeah, they were at the fertility clinic where they were holding the ova of all the abductees." He didn't say any more, but I knew what he was thinking.

"There may be more of my ova stored there," I said. We might still have a chance to have a child together, I thought, but didn't say it. It was implied.

"Chances are slim, Scully. Even if there are labs there, chances that YOUR ova are there ... chances are slim," he repeated.

He was right; I didn't want to get my hopes up, or his. It was a remote chance. Even if there were ova there, they might not be mine. And just because the other Kurts worked in a fertility clinic, didn't mean that's what this facility was doing. I'd used the ova Mulder had stolen. Another batch had blown up on a ship. That explosion had almost killed Agents Doggett, Reyes and me. Chances that any more of my ova existed anywhere were pretty low. I could hardly believe it, though. Even a slim chance was more than we'd had before. But I was getting ahead of myself.

"Yeah, we have to get into that facility before they destroy it when they're attacked, but that place is like a fortress. Even if we got through the gates and up the drive without being noticed, I can't believe that we could stop them from blowing up the entire facility, just to keep from being caught. That's their usual M.O."

"What are they using the computers for, Mulder?" I couldn't quite figure that out.

Mulder's eyes began to glow. I knew he had just had one of those great leaps of logic for which he was famous.

"The computers! If they're using the computers, it's a good bet that they're accessing the net or at least using a T-1 line that the guys could trace. It's worth a shot."

"Yes!" I agreed. "If they can hack into the computers being used, maybe we can get some idea about what's going on inside and we could have a better chance to get to the cryogenics area before they destroy it." If there is one, I reminded myself.

Mulder was hitting the speed dial for the guys as I finished speaking. His conversation was short and I was disappointed until he said, "They're on their way here, just about twenty miles away. They should be here in less than a half an hour." He looked as surprised as I was.

"Did you ask them to follow us?"

"No, I told them to stay where they were and out of trouble," Mulder smiled. "But I'm glad they're almost here now."

"Yeah, but what will the FBI team think of them?" I asked.

"We'll just have to tell them they're consultants sent in by Skinner. I doubt anyone will question that until it's too late."

I smiled back at Mulder and told him I was going to the truck to get changed into something basic and black. He waggled his eyebrows and offered to join me.

I think he was surprised when I said yes.

I went straight to the rig to change into a black outfit. Mulder gave the rest of the group an update on the guys and then joined me. I was up in the bunk in my bra and panties when he climbed in the cab.

"Scully!" He wolf whistled.

"C'mere," I said and opened my arms to embrace him. "Mulder, we have to talk."

"What?" He could tell I had something important to say.

"Mulder, I would rather never have a child if it meant that I lost you trying to claim my ova back or figure out if they are there. If we find out there are ova there, I don't want you to do something rash and have to spend the rest of my life alone."

"Scully," he sighed.

"Please, Mulder, don't take any unnecessary chances out there. I couldn't take losing you now."

"Right back at you Scully," he hugged me tighter. "Live to fight another day and all that. You know, I've been so calm since we were together the other night. I know that we still haven't consummated our relationship, but just sharing pleasure, being intimate, has made it easier for me to wait, and I hope for you."

I nodded to let him know that I agreed.

"I would do anything to spend the rest of my life with you, Scully. Including backing off from trying to find your ova in there, if that's what you want. But you gotta remember. We're going in together."

"I know Mulder. We're always stronger together. Whatever happens, I will have your back, as I know you'll have mine." I answered.

"Damn straight!" he said with a smile. "Now, don't you think you should put on a black bra and panties set before we go out to storm the fortress?" He waggled his eyebrows and I broke up laughing.

Mulder always knew when to interject a bit of humor to lighten the situation. I pulled him down with me as I laid back on the bunk. We had a few minutes and I didn't want to waste a one of them.

XXXXXXXXXX

The guys pulled up in a van with a sign, 'The Computer Doctor' on the side. When they opened the back door, everyone standing around gasped. It was full of electronic surveillance equipment and computer consoles.

"Someone call for a hacker?" Frohike said as he crawled out of the back.

"Please, Fro, you know I prefer Electronic Surveillance Systems Expert," Byers laughed.

"I don't care what you call it," Langly interjected. "Just tell me that the coffee shop is still serving dinner." He took off in the direction of food like a hound dog on a trail.

Mulder, Frohike, Byers and I climbed into the van and got to work. There were only three chairs, so I sat on Mulder's lap. For some reason, it made me blush. We were so much closer now. But it would still take a while to get used to the public displays of affection or closeness.

Langly had been able to hack into the computers at the vineyard on the way up to meet us. They had already identified what needed to be done to disable the gate and alarm system, but nothing was found on the system that helped with the locks on the doors. Apparently they were all manual, or on a separate stand-alone system to prevent hacking.

The layout of the facility was printed out for Mulder and I. We found the cryogenic area at the same time. It was right in the middle of the building. Almost impervious to any kind of attack. But it was there, just as we suspected.

We asked the guys to work on getting the door locks open to that particular area and went out to discuss our findings with the rest of the group. Every one threw in ideas about how to get into the facility, until Mulder called a halt to the discussion.

"Guys, you get us in the gate and create a disturbance in the north west corner and I'll get us into the facility. Watch out for the fucking dogs," he warned.

"Mulder, shouldn't we wait for the FBI Team?" I asked, already knowing the answer.

"We'll wait for another half hour, then we're going in," Mulder said. "Why don't you call Skinner and find out what their ETA is?"

He was willing to wait for a half hour. At least it was something. I pulled out my phone and called Skinner.

When I hung up, I knew Mulder was going to be furious. The local ASAC had countermanded Skinner's order to send a team. It seemed that there was a bomb scare called in at a rock concert in Sacramento and his guys had been pulled to assist there. We were on our own.

I had to wonder if that bomb scare was legitimate. Were they on to us? Now I was just being paranoid.

XXXXXXXXXX

Forty-five minutes later, we were on the road about two hundred yards from the gates of the Starlight Vineyards. Skinner had pulled some strings and a CHP officer had delivered a search warrant to us to make our raid legal.

The guys followed Mulder and I in their van. We dropped our empty trailer and drove up to our current location without our lights on. The big diesel was not quiet, but certainly no louder than a car at the lower speeds. Mulder had pulled out the Para Ordnance Full Auto 85 and two hand guns. I tucked the Beretta in the back of my jeans and carried my trusty Sig Sauer. We were ready to roll.

The rest of the truckers were about a mile back down the road. Mulder had offered Cooner a weapon, but didn't seem surprised when he pulled out a sawed off shotgun from under his truck seat. The rest of the truckers had a weapon of choice of their own also. I didn't feel as uncomfortable about them being unarmed in a confrontation. Now, if I could just shake the unease I felt about them being armed, behind us and untrained. It was an accident waiting to happen. I guess you can't have everything. Now that we wouldn't have FBI back up, I was glad they were there nonetheless.

The gate lock clicked open and Byers shoved it out of the way. We drove the rig up the drive way, slowly and quietly. When Frohike gave the signal we knew the alarm system was off, and Mulder began speeding up the roadway, winding the truck into the higher gears as he went. I suddenly knew how he expected to get into the building. I looked over to make sure he had his seat belt on securely and tightened mine again. We were about to cost Global-Tech or the FBI a lot of money. Par for the course.

"Hold on Scully, we're going in!" Mulder shouted as he drove the Kenworth straight into the side of the concrete block building at more than seventy miles per hour.

The rush of the impact was intoxicating. It was like driving a tank through butter. The Kenworth wound up halfway to the middle of the building, taking out several guards along with the walls and furniture that were in its way.

Mulder and I exited the cab before the cloud of dust settled and were able to work our way towards the doors of the cryogenics lab without firing a shot. Chaos reigned. No one knew what had happened and so they didn't know how to react. The dust and debris were a perfect cover.

We arrived at the door of the lab only to find that it was still locked. The guys had not been able to hack into that particular system. It was either a stand alone or manual like the door locks.

"I'm going to try shooting it open, Scully. Stand back," Mulder said as he pushed me behind him.

He aimed his gun but before he could fire we heard a loud voice right behind us say, "I wouldn't do that if I were you, Agent Mulder."

We turned to face our enemy, only to come face to face with one of the Kurt Crawfords.

"If you damage the scanner in any way, the door locks down for twenty-four hours. You need a card," he said as he walked forward with one in his right hand. His left hand was out to the side and empty. He continued, "You took it from me when you jumped me by surprise," he said, giving his own cover story in case we were caught.

"All right." Mulder moved away from the door staying in front of me. The Kurt stopped.

"Agent Mulder, I wouldn't hurt Agent Scully, ever. I would die to protect her." His sad expression emphasized the truth of his statement.

"Why?" I asked as I moved from behind Mulder. "Why do you wish to help me... us?"

The Kurt looked at Mulder and then back to me. "Didn't you tell her, Agent Mulder?"

"Tell her what?" he asked.

"Tell me what?" I repeated, wondering what else Mulder may have kept from me besides my ova. Kurt looked at me. "You're our mother, or the closest thing to one we'll ever have. I am made from your genetic material. We all are."

I felt like I had been gut-shot again. All these clones were my sons? "How?" I was able to gasp out.

"We are all from the one fetus created by mixing the sperm of a man named Kurt Crawford, who was a brilliant bio-chemist and researcher and your ova, Agent Scully. We are all hybrid clones of your offspring. We are grateful and would do anything for you. We have protected you many times when you weren't aware of it."

"Oh my God," I whispered. All the times I had heard of or saw one of the Kurts die, it was someone who shared my genetic make up. Two words he'd said stuck in my brain. "My offspring?" I whispered. "You were cloned from ... my offspring? What offspring?" They were like Emily; mine but not mine. However, he said they were cloned from a fetus -- my offspring -- a real child.

"You have a son," he said. And he didn't mean himself and the other clones.

I felt the room sway and everything turned black.

XXXXXXXXXX

I watched Scully blanch as the Kurt answered her questions and expected her to react strongly. I didn't expect her to pass out.

I barely caught her as her gun slipped from her lifeless fingers and she pitched forward towards the floor. If the Kurt had meant any harm to either of us, he would have easily been able to kill us right then.

I glared at him and said sarcastically, "Why didn't you give it to her straight?"

He gave me a puzzled look, "Should I have not told her the truth, Agent Mulder? Would you have me lie to her?"

"No, of course not," I said in exasperation. "I wish..."

The lights suddenly dimmed to a faint amber glow and the sound of a woman's voice counting down from 500 sounded over the intercom system.

"What the hell is that?" I demanded.

"You must go, Agent Mulder. You must get Agent Scully to safety." The Kurt obviously knew what was happening.

"What do you mean, 'Go'? I need to get in this room to get Scully's ova," I insisted, "If there's any left."

"No, we must leave. I will see what I can do. They have initiated the self-destruct system and we have less than five minutes to get away from here. You must take Agent Scully back to your vehicle and leave." The Kurt turned to depart.

"Where the hell are you going?" I yelled after him.

"I must try to free my brothers. They are trapped on the level below and have no hope of escaping unless I can get to a computer terminal for access to the locks."

Shit! I needed to get Scully to safety, but I knew that I needed to help the Kurt free all the others. It's what Scully would want us to do. I remembered what she'd said. She'd rather not have a child than lose me. But we still had some time. Just then Byers appeared out of the dust and debris and skidded to a halt next to me.

"Mulder, they've initiated the self-destruct. You've got to get out of here. Oh, my God, was she shot?"

I shook my head as I handed Scully over to the shocked gunman. "Take her back to the rig, Byers. I'll be back in two minutes. If I'm not, back that truck out of here and take off." Byers stood there gaping at me. "Do you understand me, John? I'm trusting you to take care of Scully. Can you do this for me?"

"Sure, Mulder," he said as he held Scully tightly in his arms. "You can count on me." He knew how rare it was for me to trust anyone but myself with Scully's well being. He took off towards the rig and I ran after the Kurt to help free his brothers.

In less than a minute, we reached the steel door that sealed the rest of the Kurts in the lab.

"When the self-destruct system is on, the lock is a combination of an encrypted password and a scan of an approved palm print. I have clearance to open the door normally but I need you at that terminal to enter the password," he shouted over the droning countdown.

I nodded and moved to the terminal. He rattled off a series of alpha/numeric keystrokes that I entered as he moved his hand to the pad next to the lock. It opened almost immediately, and the Kurts began to pour out the door.

"Come on, we need to get out of here," I shouted.

"Agent Mulder, you must go make sure Agent Scully is safely out of the building. We need to exit through the under ground passage to the supply area. We must not be seen leaving this facility or our lives will be worthless. They could still be hovering over the area in their helicopters waiting to shoot us," the first Kurt quickly explained. "It will allow us to disperse through the fields of this vineyard and the surrounding vineyards to safety."

"Not good enough," I said, thinking hard. "Look, all of you head towards the diner at the truck stop down on Old Sonoma Road. You can hide in our trailer and we'll get you to safety."

One of the Kurts stepped forward and shoved a pile of papers into my hands. "Thanks, Agent Mulder," said the first Kurt. "Now go!"

They turned and ran in all directions. They obviously had a plan. So did I. I wanted to get Scully to safety. I wanted us both to live to a ripe old age together. Even if there would be no little UberScully-Mulders, I wanted to spend a good part of my hopefully long life making love to my partner.

I got back just as the voice that sounded more and more like Diana Fowley counting, got to 90. Byers had the truck started and was grinding the gears, searching for reverse when I pulled the door open.

"Shit, Mulder, you scared me," he spat.

"Move over!" I shouted.

"I've got to get back to the guys," he said as he scrambled over the console and out the other door. "Move! Mulder!" he screamed as he headed out of the building to the waiting van.

I threw the rig into reverse and popped the clutch. We moved backwards through the rubble and I tried not to think about the bumps we ran over as bodies of the dead guards as we cleared the building.

I spun the wheel and screeched to a halt, ramming it into first gear. I took off as fast as I could without stalling out. We had to get away from there quickly, or the ensuing explosion would vaporize us, truck and all.

I heard Scully moving around in the bunk and started to yell at her to hold on, but a small explosion went off, and then another and another.

Scully opened the curtains yelled, "Mulder, what's happening?"

XXXXXXXXXXX

When I came to, I was in the bunk of our rig, and we were moving swiftly back down the driveway towards the road.

"Mulder, what's happening?" I yelled over the sound of the engine and the explosions behind us.

"We've got to get as far away as possible, Scully. They had the entire place rigged. They all got away in a couple of helicopters they had up on the top of the building, and they set off the selfdestruct mechanism when they left."

"Mulder," I grabbed his shoulder as I climbed back down into my seat. "What about the Kurts? My... Did they get out?" I had to know. I realized they were mine biologically, not really 'mine' as in fostered in the womb - and they emerged full grown, never really having been children. Still it was my genetic material that formed them and I felt an uncanny connection to them.

"Yeah, Scully, they got out. At least all the ones who were viable and could walk. There was a room full of them in the tanks that were not done yet that didn't make it, though." Mulder was quiet for a moment.

"Scully, I didn't know that they were made from ... you. When he told me that 'they' were their mothers, I thought he was speaking of all the ova of all the women represented there in the storage area. I never thought that you were the mother of all the Kurt Crawfords. I swear. I wouldn't have kept that from you. I didn't know. You have to believe me."

I couldn't say anything. It was too much to assimilate under stress, but I wasn't mad at Mulder. I believed him, I just couldn't find the words to tell him.

Mulder babbled for a few more minutes, trying to find a way to make me believe that he hadn't lied to me or hid another important detail until I finally found the words to stop him.

"Just drive, Mulder. I believe you, but put this sucker in gear and put the pedal to the metal before we're blown to kingdom come."

Mulder grinned at me and concentrated on driving. Another series of several small explosions went off behind us and then one mammoth explosion that left a huge crater in the earth and completely destroyed all evidence that a concrete structure had been there moments before.

The blast impact rocked our rig, but we had made it to safety. Ahead of us, I could see the Gunmen's van and the other rigs retreating to the diner.

"We're going to meet up with the others, then they're going to move out before the cops get here," Mulder said. "No need to bring any more people into the Consortium sights than necessary."

I agreed and we fell silent again. I moved around in the seat and noticed a pile of papers on the floor at my feet. "Mulder, what's all this stuff?"

"Just some papers one of the Kurts thrust at me on the way back to the rig. I thought that they might give us some clues as to the rest of the gang."

I made a mental note to look through them before we entered them into evidence. I wanted to know what we had before it disappeared. I'd be making copies of it all for our files as soon as I was within spitting distance of a copier.

Mulder pulled up to the diner and backed up to our trailer. I thought it odd that he was going to make sure we were hooked up before the cops even got there, but I didn't say anything. It was empty anyway. I was too tired and shook up to question it.

We met with Cooner and the others and sent them on their way. We tried, successfully, I hope, to dispel the impression that they saw a number of men with the same exact face. We told them it was a gang of brothers running the hijacking ring that looked similar, but not exactly the same. I think they bought it. The alternative was probably just too much for them to contemplate.

None of them wanted to stick around to be interrogated by the police, and the diner parking lot was soon deserted except for the guys' van and our rig. It was a beautiful still night with only the faintest sounds of our friends driving away in the back ground.

Mulder and I crawled into the bunk and went through the documents he had rescued. We sent the guys ahead and told them we would meet them in Davis. It was right up I80 and close enough to the Sacramento Airport that we could all fly home if necessary. The guys were taking the van back to their friend in Woodland, so they agreed.

They hadn't been gone long when I found pieces of information that made all the damage to the Kenworth worth it. There were manifestos stating which loads the stolen computers came from, their purpose and the serial number of each. Software licensing numbers for the bio-chemical programs needed for their research and a number of printouts of information gleaned from the stolen computers were all the proof we needed.

When I showed them to Mulder it cheered him some, but I could still tell that he didn't think we had enough to close the case. One of the final pieces of paper that I found was a memo from T. Strughold to D. Fowley with all the VINs (Vehicle Identification Numbers) of the stolen rigs and trailer numbers listed and a corresponding number of an overseas freight container that the equipment was loaded into. All of it was on a dock in New York City waiting for a freighter from Germany to deliver it to an RP Industries site in Tunisia. We had them.

Several times while we were reading, I thought I heard someone behind us, but when I looked there was nothing moving. I decided I was just on edge after everything that happened this evening.

We finally heard the sirens in the distance, followed by a helicopter that landed in the field behind the diner. I wasn't surprised when Skinner, Thomas and McMahon climbed out of it and hurried over to us.

Mulder and I glanced at each other and knew we had some 'splainin' to do.

We grinned.

XXXXXXXXXX

It was dawn before we were ready to leave the site of the explosion. Skinner had a CSI crew there, checking the site with a fine-toothed comb. We knew that they would find the remains of a few of the guards, and just one other person. And they did. They just didn't know how to explain why the volume of the remains seemed more appropriate for two dozen people, not one. Mulder and I let them try to figure it out and asked if we could leave.

That was the first time Mr. Thomas and Mr. McMahon actually noticed the state of the Kenworth. Even though the truck was built like a tank, it had taken a beating. It was still mechanically sound, but it sure looked like hell. They started to bitch poor Mulder out about the condition of their equipment and how much it was going to cost them to repair it.

"You two gentlemen were not so quick to reprimand Agent Mulder when you first got your hands on the memos about your stolen property and the employees in your own company and the DOT that were in on the hijacking ring," I spat.

I had my dander up and nothing that Skinner or Mulder could say was going to keep me from giving them a piece of my mind. "Agent Mulder and I solved your case. Our east coast agents already have both Strughold and Fowley under arrest along with a number of lesser players in the ring that they squealed on."

"See here, Agent Scully, we've already lost a considerable number of rigs during this entire fiasco, and now we have to repair a brand new Kenworth. It's going to cost thousands..."

"I suppose you're not interested in this last piece of information, then?" I acted as if I was going to tear it up.

"What information is that Agent Scully?" Skinner interjected.

I contemplated the two men and let them squirm for a moment. I sighed and handed the paper to Skinner. "The shipping manifesto for every one of the other rigs and their trailers that they were trying to smuggle out of the country."

Skinner looked at me over his glasses and smiled a tight little smile of glee. "Good job, Agents. We'll get right on this."

I glanced at Mulder and we exchanged a wink and a grin. We owed it all to the Kurt that had retrieved this information for us. However, I didn't think they'd mind if we took the credit for finding it.

"Now, if you gentlemen would excuse us, Agent Scully and I haven't slept in over twenty-four hours," Mulder said as he turned me towards the rig.

I shot him a questioning look and he let me know he would tell me what he was up to in a little while with his glance.

"Agents, where are you going?" Skinner called after us.

"We're going to find a motel where we can park our rig and sleep for at least a full day. Then we'll call dispatch and see about getting this baby back to the nearest repair center before we fly home."

"You don't have to do that Agent Mulder..." Mr. McMahon started.

"Yes, Mr. McMahon, we do. We always complete what we start and we 'always give our best', to paraphrase your own words," Mulder said to the three stunned men.

We climbed into the rig and headed back towards Sacramento in silence.

When we hit I80 I turned to Mulder and asked, "Do you want to tell me what this is all about, Mulder?"

Mulder grinned at me and looked at his watch and then the odometer. "I didn't think you could hold out that long, Scully."

I gave him a sharp punch to the arm but couldn't keep from smiling, "Shithead."

"Ohhhh, Agent Scully, the potty mouth you have picked up on this assignment." We both laughed.

"What's up, Mulder?" I was serious now.

"Scully, all the Kurts that escaped are in our trailer," he said calmly. "I didn't know what else to do with them," he said and shrugged.

"Are they okay?" I gasped.

"Yeah, I didn't want them to go wandering around Napa without any help or anywhere to go, so I told them to climb into the trailer and we would take them to safety after we talked to the cops and our superiors."

"Mulder..." I smiled. "Thank you."

"What? They didn't do anything but follow orders. The one that was killed when we were watching was an example to all the others as to how expendable they were to the consortium. They treated them like machines and they're not, Scully. Each one may look like the other, and think like the others, but they're individuals, too."

"What are they going to do? Where can they go?" I was worried about these clones that thought of themselves as my sons. I realized that I felt the same way about them, or at least that they were my flesh and blood. It was hard to think of full grown men as my sons.

"They have somewhere to go, they just need transportation. I thought we could stop along the way back to the repair shop and drop them off at different bus and train terminals. It's too difficult to fly these days with the picture ID's required to get on the planes."

"Good thinking, partner, but lets get them some water and food before it gets too hot. We should stop so that we can all get some rest before moving on."

Mulder nodded his agreement and we began to look for a safe place to stop.

XXXXXXXXXXX

PART 14 (NC-17)
DAVIS, CA I80 TOWARDS RENO, NEVADA

We made our first stop at a bus station in Davis. The guys were waiting there in a rental car. Scully, Frohike, Byers, Langly and I climbed into the back of the trailer. There were twenty of them and it was more than a little disconcerting to see that many identical men at once.

We asked them what they wanted to do and the first Kurt explained that in moments when they could discuss things unobserved, they had made contingency plans in case they were ever able to escape. The Consortium had paid them a regular salary, and having nothing to really spend it on, they had been slowly buying up houses and properties all over the United States and Canada through a contact on the Internet.

They wanted to go to those predetermined destinations, places they considered their homes. They explained that it was probably better if we didn't know where they all were. They had been called Kurt1, Kurt2, etc. at the facility. However, amongst themselves, they had given each other different names to lend them individuality. I hadn't noticed before but when they pointed it out, they all had a small number tattooed on their index finger to indicate which 'clone' they were.

Having photographic memories, they were able to remember which names were assigned to which numbers. This had been essential for the buying of properties and establishing identities in the outside world. Kurt1, who called himself Kevin Sorenson, was their appointed leader and spokesperson. He alone gave us his destination of Ontario, Canada, an address on Davis Drive East, and a telephone number where he could be reached should we ever need help. He could be in touch with the others very quickly and they would come to our aid.

Lots of 'thank yous' and hand shaking went on with me and the Gunmen. They all, though, hugged Scully individually and stared at her for a moment as if memorizing her face. Her face was streaming with tears by the time we were finished. Even the guys were sniffling.

"We're headed to Reno, Nevada," I informed them.

'Kevin' scribbled on a small notebook pad he'd had in his pocket. "Here's some train and bus stations along the way. If you could drop a couple of us at each one that would be great," he said.

"A couple?" Scully questioned.

"We can always pull off being twins for a few minutes in a terminal somewhere, but we'll be going in different directions. More than two of us would attract undue attention, though. If you see any others en route that I haven't listed here, feel free to stop. We can make our way from there. We all have wallets with IDs and ATM cards and bank accounts we can draw from. I created a small stash of cash by skimming their checks which I grabbed before we left. I gave each of them $100 for now to tide them over till they can find an ATM."

"You had this pretty well thought out," I commented.

He stared at me a moment and said, "We had a long time to think about it. We appreciate your help more than you know." The others smiled their agreement. "We never hoped to actually see you again," he said softly to Scully.

Scully murmured, "We know. God speed, all of you."

They nodded as we left. We climbed out of the trailer with two of the Kurts and the guys. Scully hugged them again and gave them a kiss before they walked away to melt into the crowd.

"Well, Mulder, Scully, we had better get going too," Byers said. "Our flight leaves in a little over two hours."

"Yeah, you two drive safely," Frohike said. "And take care of each other."

Scully smiled at him and kissed his cheek. "We will, Melvin."

Langly flashed us the peace sign and hurried to catch up with Byers. "Hey, do you think they'll have any of those Cinnabuns at the Sacramento airport?" we heard him ask Byers.

Frohike just shook his head. "I swear he regresses into his preteen years more and more each day." He waved and turned to follow his friends.

We were tired, but decided to proceed on for another hour or so since the next two stations on Kevin's list were in Sacramento and not that far away. Scully watched until everyone was out of sight and then turned to me. "It's like I'm living a dream or something. It's almost too much to get my mind around."

"I know. It's so fantastic, no one would believe us, except the guys."

"Let's go, Mulder, before I get all blubbery again."

"It's O.K. to get blubbery, Scully. If you couldn't do it now, when the hell could you?"

She gave me a sad smile and we climbed into the cab and hit the road again. In Sacramento we stopped at the train station and the bus terminal, dropping off four more of the Kurts.

We drove on to Roseville and stopped at a K-Mart that was just off I80. We bought pillows, blankets and food and returned to the trailer, doling out them out to our remaining passengers.

A few miles up I80 we stopped at the Marriott Courtyard and rented two rooms, one room for us and one for the Kurts to use. For the first time, ours was a single room with one queen bed.

We grabbed a change of clothes for morning and wearily made our way inside, showering and finally headed for bed. Scully was buck naked and headed under the sheets. I took my cue from her and climbed in next to her, spooning up behind her.

I thought I would sleep quickly, but found myself too wired up, my mind still spinning from the events of the day. Losing another chance to find Scully's ova, killing members of the consortium in the crash into the building, escaping with the Kurts, ending the hijacking ring. It had been a busy day!

I snuggled tighter to Scully and hugged her tight. She hummed and pushed her naked butt against my hips. My dick responded immediately, beginning to rise up. I wondered if we were going to have another mutual heavy petting session, when she rolled over and faced me, kissing me hard. She made her way down my chest, kissing a trail over my skin that was beginning to burn with anticipation.

"Uh, Scully, I think it's my turn to do that for you," I reminded her.

"Nuh, uh," she mumbled and her head disappeared under the covers as I flopped onto my back. I slid the covers down so I could see what was happening. Just in time too.

XXXXXXXXXX NC-17 PORTION XXXXXXXXXX

I looked down to see her lips stretched wide to wrap around the burning shaft that was now fully erect merely from anticipation. Her hands rubbed my hip bones and she hummed again as swirled her tongue over the sensitive head of my cock. I groaned as she took me in one hand and squeezed gently at the base, trapping the blood flow and making me throb incessantly as she bobbed her head up and down, sucking gently.

I ran my hands gently over her face, feeling her smooth skin and struggling to keep my eyes open. "Scully, let me touch you. I don't want to come yet," I managed to croak out.

She backed off slowly, as though reluctant and stretched herself over my body. I pulled her in for another kiss and we made out for some minutes, letting the passion rise slowly.

I flipped her onto her back and began to return the gift of the previous blow job I'd been treated to. I'd been pathetically ill equipped to return the favor at that time, but I intended to remedy the situation right now.

She pulled my head down and whispered in my ear. "I don't want to stop there, Mulder."

I pulled up suddenly and looked into her eyes. "What?"

"I'm ready. I want to make love to you."

I swallowed, hoping I wasn't misinterpreting this. "All the way?" I asked stupidly, sounding like a high school kid.

She smiled and nodded. "Yeah ... all the way, baby."

I grinned so hard it's a wonder my face didn't crack. I ducked down and latched onto her nipple without warning. She shouted and arched off the bed, pressing her flesh into my mouth as I suckled and laved her budded peak, delighting in the sounds she was uttering from the back of her throat. I swear her voice had already dropped an octave. It was sexy on a regular day, but this ... this sound coming from her was intoxicating. I wanted more of it.

I assaulted the other breast, feeling a bit frantic and reminding myself to slow down. We did have all night, and I didn't want to rush this first time. My cock felt dense and so hard, throbbing in time with every moan she uttered.

I kissed down her stomach and proceeded to dive into her jewel. She was moist, downy and so hot it blew me away. I lapped up her essence and hummed my own little tune of satisfaction as I drank her in, diving into every crevice and leaving no small cranny unmolested. She writhed on the bed under me and I gripped her hips to hold them still. I wanted to make her come this way. Then if I blew it later, it wouldn't be a total loss for her. I had my doubts as to my endurance.

Finally, after another minute or so, she shouted my name and began to climax. "Ohhhh, Mmuullddeerr, yes!"

I lapped her gently as she came down and then crawled up over her, brushing her hair away from her face. I kissed her softly and she stared up at me like I was a dream come true. I was suddenly totally overwhelmed by what was happening here. Sure, we'd made out, we'd petted, she'd even given me a blow job, and now I'd gone down on her. In a minute, however, I was going to be inside the woman I had loved for so long, I couldn't remember ever NOT loving her.

I stared at her for a moment and said, "I love you, Scully, so much."

"I know." Maybe she saw a question in my face because she said, "I'm ready, Mulder. Come to me."

I settled into the cradle of her thighs, taking my weight on my elbows. I needed no hand assistance to find my goal. The tip of my cock was so sensitive and it was drawn straight to the heat I could feel emanating from between her legs. I brushed against the lips of her sex and she sucked in a small gasp.

I rubbed back and forth for a moment, letting her wetness coat me and just trying to slow down and revel in this first time. If I survived the first push inside without exploding, I would be all right.

I braced myself and slid gently into her cupped opening. I pushed gently, feeling my wide cock head begin to slide inside, stretching her lips to the side.

Her eyes got really big as my head slid inside and her nether lips surrounded it like a snug glove. I moaned, "Oh Jeezzuuuss," feeling her heat surround my cock head. I pushed slowly, allowing her time to adjust to my size. She was so small, and it had been a long time for both of us.

I was about half way in when she whimpered, "Oh, Chriisstt Almighty, Mulder."

"I know," I croaked and pulled back a little and pressed forward again, watching her face closely for any signs of distress. Although the incredible tightness was a mixture of pleasure and near pain, I continued to press forward, rocking slightly and feeling my cock slide inch after inch deeper into her hot, little body.

Her voice was low and quivering when she said, "The deeper you go, the bigger you feel. Oh, Christ, Mulder. It feels so good."

I was finally all the way in and I hitched up, pressing hard and embedding myself just that millimeter more, stretching the door to her womb and feeling my swollen balls press against her firm ass cheeks.

"Oh God!" she yelped as I filled her. We held still, both of us trembling slightly. Then she arched her back, pulling her hips back and pressing up hard against me.

I moaned and began to fill her with long, slow, steady strokes. My cock felt so hard and sensitive as I pressed inside, feeling her strong, tight walls part like a wave each time and surround me in incredible silky heat.

I didn't want to leave her for a second but I knew I couldn't stop the call of nature. I murmured, "So good, Scully. This feels so RIGHT. Oh fuck, you feel so incredible." I felt like I'd reached her soul. She'd let me ALL the way in, and the final frontier was now wide open. I pressed my hips to her pelvis, grinding myself against her.

My head fell into the nook between her shoulder and neck and I kissed her there as I began to thrust again, keeping my pace fairly slow, but feeling the urge to speed up creep up on me quickly. She pulled her legs up higher and I felt myself sink even deeper into her tiny body. Her internal muscles began to quiver on my shaft and it was the most incredible sensation I think I'd ever felt. Her muscles were hugging my shaft as I tried to retreat.

I stopped to catch my breath and withdrew my aching shaft until just the tip remained stuffed between her swollen lips. Then I pressed back in quickly, feeling her vaginal muscles close tightly around me and massage me with small quivering waves. I bottomed out against her cervix with every stroke, stretching it taut in my effort to bury myself balls deep in her tiny channel.

In no time, my slow withdrawals and quick entrances were not enough for her, although it had helped me get things back under control. She began to heave her hips off the bed and impale herself on my shaft, silently begging me to take her faster.

I groaned quietly, angling my thrusts a little differently and causing the top of my cock to rub against her clitoris. I thrust as deep as I could go into her warmth, burying myself over and over and feeling her body shudder under mine each time I dragged my stomach over her pubic bone. I made sure I was dragging over her clitoris with every slow, hard thrust.

Her hands ran up and down my back as her eyes rolled back in her head. She had stretched to accommodate me and I was now sliding a bit more easily, but she was still incredibly snug. I ran one hand down her torso and back up to her breast, pinching her nipple gently. I felt her muscles suddenly clamp down, then she tensed and shouted, "I'm ccoommiinngg, Mulder!"

I kept up a steady rhythm, shortening my strokes and saw her face register surprise as I pushed her deeper into the climax and kept slamming inside. "Oh Goodd," she shouted as I felt her walls convulse around me, squeezing tightly and rapidly as she rode out her climax. She arched her back to allow me to go even deeper into her body.

I could feel my own cum burning and coiling in my balls and I slowed down, not wanting to end it yet. I slowed to a glacial pace as she lay there panting. I was more rocking in and out of her than thrusting.

She opened her heavy lidded eyes and mumbled, "So good, Mulder. I can't believe how good you make me feel."

I smiled a lop sided grin at her and kept pressing deep inside, unable to give up reveling in the feeling of being inside her. "I never want to leave," I said softly.

She began to chuckle. "You can stay as long as you like," she teased.

"Good to know," I grunted. I flexed my cock inside her and began to stroke her again, gently this time. She began swivel her hips like a belly dancer and I felt my own eyes roll back in my head at the change in pressure and angle. A fresh wave of arousal sped through me and I hardened further, not knowing that was even possible.

My balls were pulled up tight to the base of my cock and my toes were curling as the slow undulating waves of sensation coursed through my body. I lifted my body and looked down to watch my rigid cock sliding in and out of her. I looked so thick and heavy between her trim thighs. My stomach muscles clenching, driving my cock into her soft, bruised walls, my flared head feeling like it was scraping her as I plunged inside.

"So beautiful, look at us, Scully," I choked out.

She looked down and moaned low in her throat. When she looked up, I leaned in and kissed her again, speeding up. Her hands slid down my back and gripped my ass cheeks and I groaned right into her mouth, feeling my orgasm becoming imminent.

She groaned, "Let go, Mulder. Come for me."

I roared, no longer able to prolong the inevitable. I hitched up on my knees and began ramming into her, bouncing back from the impact. She hollered, "Yes! Harder, harder, Mulder! Let go! Come for me, baby."

"Ahhhhhhhhhh, shiiiiiitt, Scully!" I shouted and felt the delicious friction as her muscles tried to hold me in as I backed away, only to sink deep again.

My cum shot up my shaft without warning, stiffening me to just this side of unbearable and then I was cumming, drenching her insides in a shower of powerful blasts that seemed to last forever. "Oh Jesus. Again!" she shouted and I felt her begin to quake around me again.

I was dizzy and crying out nonsense as my balls clenched and produced more sperm, emptying into her until I felt my own juices leaking out around our juncture. Her orgasm had prolonged mine.

XXXXXXXXXX END NC-17 PORTION XXXXXXXXXX

I sank down onto her chest, wanting contact but not wanting to crush her. Somehow she grasped the bedspread and pulled it up over our cooling bodies as I laid there trying to catch my breath. I realized I wanted this ... forever. I wanted a commitment with her. I wanted the ultimate commitment with her. I wanted to be in her bed every night. I never wanted to sleep alone again. Some empty place in my soul had just been filled up, because Scully had let me in.

"I love you, Scully ... just in case you forgot," I added.

She chuckled again and it caused my flaccid penis to slide out of her.

We both moaned gently and she said, "I love you, too, Mulder. Always."

After a moment of silence, I added, "Just thought I should share with you that was, bar none, the best sex I've ever had in my life."

She lifted my face to hers and kissed me, grinning. "Sure," she quipped.

I nodded. "It was, I'm not humoring you."

She sobered. "I can't even describe how good that was, Mulder."

"You don't have to. I was there, remember?"

She chuckled again. "I'm tired now."

"Mmm, me too, big day tomorrow."

"You mean dropping off the rest of the Kurts?"

"Mmm, yeah, that and finding an outfit for you to wear."

"Outfit to wear? For what?"

"Our wedding," I said softly as I kissed her neck.

"WHAT?" she shouted, and tried to sit up, but my big body was blocking that move.

I turned to face her again, totally serious. "Marry me, Scully," I said quietly.

"Mulder, what are you thinking?"

I blinked. "I'm thinking I want you to be my wife. I'm thinking that I know I'm never going to love anyone else. I'm thinking that I want to wake up with you right next to me for the rest of my life. And I am tired of waiting. Tired of waiting to kiss, tired of waiting to touch, tired of waiting to make love. And now I'm tired of waiting to ask for what I want ... what I've wanted for so long. I'm not going to be afraid anymore."

"You're serious," she said, as she stared at me.

"As a heart attack. Will you marry me, Scully?"

"Just like that?"

"Yeah, just like that."

"I don't know ..."

I frowned, feeling crushing disappointment and I knew it showed on my face. "Are you still not sure?" I asked, dreading the answer.

"No! It's not that. I guess you just ... surprised me. My brain hasn't engaged yet."

I kissed her softly. "Marry me, Scully. I have a ring at home that matches the one I already gave you. It's a family ring, beautiful set, platinum and diamonds. You'd have to wait for that. Or we can go buy rings once we hit Nevada if you want a new set. We don't need a blood test in Nevada, you know I'm clean anyway..."

I stopped, realizing I was babbling. She would know all this. I stared at her and cupped her face in my hands. Slowly, I said, "Say yes, Scully. Be. My. Wife. If you do, I promise you won't regret it. Nobody will ever love you like I do." I paused, "Just one word, Scully. Say it. Say. Yes."

Her eyes were big as saucers and I saw them grow moist with tears. I held my breath waiting for her answer.

XXXXXXXXXX

Emotions so sweet they made tears flood my eyes, flushed through me. Married. Mulder wanted to be married to me. Thoughts of the quasi marriage proposal he had given me at the beginning of our assignment flashed through my mind.

I knew then that I wanted to commit to Mulder, even though it was couched in terms of the aliases of the assignment. Our relationship had grown over the past weeks and now he was asking me the 'big' question. There was only one answer.

"Yes."

Mulder expelled his breath with a loud whoosh, "Yes?"

I nodded and smiled, "Yes."

"Holy shit, Scully! You said yes!" Mulder grinned back at me. He tightened his grasp and rolled us over so that I was lying atop his body.

I stared down into his kaleidoscope eyes and saw the mirror to all my feelings there. Fear, excitement, passion, commitment, love. We were so well matched, in so many ways. Why did we wait for so long?

XXXXXXXXXXX NC-17 PORTION XXXXXXXXXXX

I felt a surge of desire and possessiveness. It was just as quickly reflected back to me by Mulder. His erection was fast regaining its previous glory.

"I thought you said you were tired?" I wiggled against his cock, feeling it lengthen and grow harder as it slid in between my legs.

"Hey, I'm not that old. When a beautiful woman tells me she loves me and will marry me, it turns me on," Mulder grinned up at me.

"What do you think we should do about this...?" I teased.

"I'd love to say we should make love until the dawn, but I really don't think I have it in me..." Mulder started to say.

I moved my legs out to lie along the outside of his and slid onto his cock as if we had been lovers for years. "I think I have it in me, Mulder. Wouldn't you agree?"

At his grunt of pleasure, I pushed up and began to gently slide his cock deeper into me. When I bottomed out, I leaned down and kissed every part of him I could reach.

"Mine," was the only word that I could think to say. "Mine, mine, mine, mine." Over and over I repeated it, following each possessive proclamation with a kiss or a suck or a nip. Mulder's groans and gasps of pleasure drove me on. I began to move over him more forcefully, and started to tighten the muscles of my vagina around his cock when he was embedded deeply in me. He filled me so full I could feel every ridge on his gloriously thick shaft as it slid in and out of me.

His hands automatically rose to cup my breasts. His long fingers stroking and teasing and pinching my nipples into sharp points of pleasure that shot down and ended between my legs.

"Mulder, love you, oh don't stop, love you..."

Mulder had allowed me to control our lovemaking up until now, but it became more than he could handle. He raised his knees and gently pushed me back against them, sitting up as he did. His lips covered my left nipple while his big hands began to roam all over my body.

I was incapable of doing anything but moaning and allowing him to take over. I dropped my head back and closed my eyes, letting my sense of touch control me. He pushed back with his heels and moved us up in the bed so that he was sitting against the back board. He had done much the same thing in the bunk of the truck, stating that he wanted to watch me, and earlier when he had watched as his cock had driven into me. Mulder's voyeuristic tendencies, honed by those videos he didn't own, were showing through. He was visual and he liked to watch.

"Scully, look at me," he said.

I dropped my head forward and opened my eyes. "Mulder.." His quizzical look made me explain. "Just... Mulder. I said it so that I could believe it. I love you, Mulder. Love you so much."

He pulled me down to kiss his lips and slid his hands to my hips, increasing the tempo of our lovemaking. Once he had the rhythm he wanted established, he let his hands begin to wander again. One went north towards my breasts and the other south towards my clit.

I always thought of Mulder as having an oral fixation, but he soon proved that his manual dexterity rivaled all his other talents.

I screamed his name as the walls of my vagina began to milk him, encouraging his climax. It was only a stroke or two later that he came, and the hands that had been playing me like an instrument slid around me and pulled me down to his chest as he twitched and jerked inside me, finally coming to a halt.

XXXXXXXXXXX END NC-17 PORTION XXXXXXXXXX

We were both breathless, unable to speak, but our hands were active. Fingers were stroking and touching with a tenderness only true love can bring.

When our bodies began to cool, Mulder slid me off him and over to the dry side of the bed. "I'll be right back," he whispered as he kissed me gently.

I smiled and stretched as he turned to walk to the bathroom. I closed my eyes and must have drifted off for a moment, because the next thing I was aware of was him gently cleaning me up with a warm washcloth. His eyes were green as grass, and the soft smile on his face was more precious to me than I would have ever believed possible just a few short months ago.

"Hey, sleepyhead. I didn't mean to wake you up," he said as he sat down next to me on the edge of the bed.

"No problem, Mulder. I'm sure I'll fall right back to sleep." I smiled at him. "You didn't have to do this, you know. I could have gotten up and gone into the bathroom."

"Sure I did, Scully. I wanted to," he whispered as he began to dry me with a towel. He placed small kisses everywhere he patted with the towel, creating a feeling of languor in me that assured I was going to fall asleep any moment.

"Mulder, I love you..." I broke off and yawned.

"I love you too, Scully." He bit his lip and I knew he had something important to say.

I forced myself to wake up enough to listen.

"Scully, if you don't want to get married in Reno, we could wait and get married when we get home. I mean, I know you probably want your mother and brothers and other members of your family to be there. I can wait, if that's what you want."

Tears filled my eyes again, "Oh, Mulder."

"Shit... Scully don't cry. I'm sorry, baby. Please don't cry," he looked so sad that I had to laugh.

"Mulder, you goof. I'm not crying because I'm sad. I'm crying because I love you so much and you make me happier than I ever thought possible."

His face cleared and he gave me a rueful grin. "Tears twice in one night is kind of hard to interpret, if you know what I mean, Scully."

"I promise that I will get my emotions under control in the next month or two and you'll have your old partner back, but until then..."

"Jesus! I hope not. I want you just like you are now, Scully. Naked and happy to be in my arms, I don't ever want to have to wonder how you're feeling again. If that means that I have to learn when you're crying happy or when you're crying sad, I will. Don't shut me out, Scully. I think I could stand almost anything else before I could handle you shutting me out again."

I scooted over and pulled him down to lie next to me. "You don't have to worry about that."

He smiled as I held him and thought for a moment.

"I don't want to wait to get married, Mulder. I know Mom will want to give us a reception when we get home, but I don't want to share our marriage with anyone but you. Oddly, I don't want to deal with my family until it's a done deal."

Mulder was quiet for a moment and I knew he was fighting tears. He swallowed hard several times before he was able to say, "Well, we'll at least have to share it with the official and a couple witnesses."

I pinched his arm and said, "Smart ass. You know what I mean."

"Yeah. Yeah, I do, but I think we should call your mom at least and tell her what we're going to do."

I was touched by his thoughtfulness and was fighting tears again.

"Don't you, Scully?" he pulled back to look at me.

I smiled and nodded and pulled him closer to me again. For a man who was never given respect or love, he was amazing. "We can call her from Reno after we turn in the rig, okay?"

He kissed me softly, but with such passion, I felt a curl of desire warming me again. "Goodnight, Scully."

"'Night, Mulder."

XXXXXXXXXX

PART 15 (PG-13)
RENO, NEVADA

The next two days were spent driving from bus stop to train station in a roundabout route to take back the rig to a Kenworth service center in Reno.

We drove up I80 and stopped at Auburn, Colfax and Truckee. We doubled back towards Donner Pass and down Route 89 to South Lake Tahoe and back up the other side of the lake to Carson City, the capital of Nevada, and finally to Reno.

We had dropped off all the Kurts except Kevin Sorensen, Kurt1. He was going to check into a motel for a day or two and then leave by train so that he and the other Kurts we had dropped off at the Reno bus and train stations were not seen together.

We were pleasantly surprised when we pulled into the Kenworth dealer to find that Morehead Insurance had rented a car for our use while we were in Reno. It was a white Mustang convertible with a white interior. Mulder was practically salivating as he slid behind the wheel.

We checked into the Eldorado on Virginia Street in the early afternoon and decided to look for an acceptable place to get married right away. After a few discreet inquiries, we picked out a few of places to check out in person.

The first two establishments (I won't dignify them by calling them chapels) were rejected with a drive by inspection. The third had potential and we actually went in to check out the arrangements, but were met by a minister wearing an Elvis impersonator's outfit.

Both Mulder and I ran for the door. Not even the guys would believe the wedding pictures from this place.

The fourth place was a winner. Off on a side street, away from the main strip, it was as if we had walked into another dimension. The exterior was as sun-baked as the rest of the area, but the adobe fence hid a charming southwestern garden complete with fountains, cactus and a variety of blooming plants normally not found flourishing in the desert. The interior was cool and dark, but not a bit gloomy. The adobe walls looked to be original to the area and at least two feet thick. The reception area of the chapel was tastefully decorated with fresh flowers and the smiling woman who greeted us looked like everyone's idea of the perfect grandma.

We told her what we wanted and she was able to assure us that everything we wanted would be available by the next day. As we were finishing with the arrangements, the doors of the chapel proper popped open and a young couple left, without a glance for anyone but each other.

The witness for the young couple followed them, giving their thanks to the Justice of the Peace that had married their friends. Mulder and I were amused to see a man that looked like Santa Claus dressed in a moderately expensive suit, accepting their thanks. We looked at one another and almost slipped out of the room ahead of the other guests, when Mrs. Claus grabbed our arms and guided us over to her husband. Her grip was surprisingly strong.

"George, we have a couple here that would like to speak to you. They're interested in getting married tomorrow," her voice was soft and loving.

"Hannah, my dear! What a fine looking couple you've brought me!" the little man said and he smiled at Mulder and me.

Mulder introduced us and let him know what we had discussed with Hannah.

He was all business as he directed us to join him in his office. The next few minutes were as bizarre as any OPR meeting or grilling by Skinner that we had ever sat through. He quizzed us on the length of our relationship, our previous relationships, marriages, religion, and our goals for the future. Did we want children? Had we discussed living arrangements? Were we aware of the pitfalls and hard work ahead of us to make our marriage work?

At the end of the interview, he sat back in his chair and pulled out a pipe. He gave us permission to smoke and lit it up, turning on an exhaust vent that cleared the air quietly and efficiently.

"Hannah is trying to make me quit," he said with a sparkle in his eye. "You're better off if you never start, but I'm too old now to give it up." He nodded his approval at us when we rejected his offer.

The smoke from his pipe swirled around his head in a halo before being whisked away by the exhaust fan. He stared at us for a few minutes before speaking again, stroking his full white beard as he thought. Mulder and I were at a loss for words.

"Very well," he said at last. "Does two o'clock tomorrow sound like a good time?"

"Excuse me, Mr..." I stopped. I didn't feel comfortable calling him George.

"St. Nicholes. George St. Nicholes," he said.

"Saint Nicholas?" Mulder blurted.

"No, no, St. Nicholes," he repeated with a smile.

"Does anyone . . . remark . . about your resemblance to Santa Claus, Mr. St. Nicholes?" Mulder was fascinated by this old man.

"Of course they do, son. And I must say, it turns in a tidy profit around Christmas time for Hannah and I. We always go to Cancun right after Christmas on the money I make doing personal appearances." He winked, "If you know what I mean?"

We laughed with him and relaxed. We were not going to be married by a man who thought he was Santa Claus. Our wedding wasn't going to turn into an X-File, after all.

We discussed the service and decided to write our own vows. Mr. St. Nicholes was both an ordained minister in the Church of Christ and an official Justice of the Peace, and we decided that our ceremony would be a combination of civil and Christian ceremony.

When he asked if we had witnesses lined up we were once again at a loss. I looked at Mulder and he looked at me.

"We..." Mulder began again. "We do have someone here in town, if we can get in touch with him, but that's all."

I thought I would cry when Mulder thought to include Kevin in our plans. At least we could have one of the Kurts with us when we were married.

Mrs. St. Nicholes agreed to be our second witness and offered to arrange for the flowers. We left and drove directly to the motel where we had dropped Kevin. We needed to catch him before he left town.

He was surprised to see us at his door, but when we asked him to join us the next day for our marriage, he was shocked. He thanked us and said very solemnly that he would join us there tomorrow. He was still staring at the directions when we left.

We purchased our marriage license and realized the rest of the day was open. We spent it relaxing, sightseeing and shopping for the wedding. I picked out a cream-colored linen dress to wear. Neither Mulder nor I were interested in gambling, but we did catch a dinner show that night that featured a comedian. His show was hilarious, just what we needed after all the tension we had been under for the past months. The rest of the evening was quiet as we wrote our vows. We were both very emotional by the time we were done. All we wanted to do was snuggle, and we fell asleep spooned up and content.

XXXXXXXXXX

The next day we met Kevin in front of the Chapel. He had on a new suit and carried a tastefully wrapped package. For the first time ever he was grinning and I was shocked by how much he looked like my brother Charlie.

Most of the ceremony performed by George St. Nicholes was a blur to me. I was glad we had requested a video tape of the ceremony. I actually had to look down to remember the dress I was wearing. Of course, I remember how handsome Mulder was in his dove grey Armani. Everything seemed to snap into focus when it was time for us to exchange our vows.

Mr. St. Nicholes gave us a short homily on marriage and then asked for the rings. We placed the plain platinum band we had purchased for Mulder and the diamond band I had been wearing for the past months on his bible and he said a prayer to bless them. He smiled and nodded at us. Mulder picked up my ring and clasped my left hand.

He gave me a beautiful smile and began the vows he had written. . .

"Dana Katherine Scully, I offer you my heart, my name, and my body in this uncertain world. If it's for a day or a year or a century, I will remain faithful to you, bound by love and truth.

"I believe that our lives have been intertwined since the beginning of time. When I look into your eyes, I see my soul mate. We have been bound together in all our other lives but whether it has been by the Holy church, hand-fasting, jumping the broom or by civil law, it cannot be more binding than my pledge to you now."

"I love you and will honor you above all others. I may not always agree with you or defer to you, but I will honor our marriage vows and I will forsake all others to walk with you."

"Thank you for joining your life to mine. I pledge to cover your back and protect you with my life."

"This ring is the symbol of our pledge. A circle, never ending, never broken. A symbol of my love for you. I love you, Scully."

He held my hand for a moment, gazing deeply into my eyes as if to underscore the words he had just spoken so sweetly to me.

I turned and accepted his ring from atop Mr. St. Nicholes' bible and picked up his left hand.

"Fox William Mulder, I accept your love, your name and your body, and I thank you for choosing me to share them with."

"I cannot agree with all your theories about previous lives being intertwined for all eternity without proof, but I believe in God and his power on this earth. I believe in love. And most of all, I believe in you. I believe that God has bound me to you."

"I offer my love and I promise to honor and love you until the end of our lives. I will not always agree with you, but I will never allow anger or mistrust to flourish in our marriage. I will cover your back and protect you with my life."

"With this ring, I bind myself to you freely, accepting you to be my husband, my equal, my partner for life. I promise to always tell you the truth, and I promise to believe in you until our dying days."

"I will love you forever, Mulder." I slid the ring on his finger and held on for dear life.

The silence in the chapel was broken by a stifled sob from Hannah St. Nicholes. George smiled at her and continued.

"You have listened to my spiel on marriage and have exchanged vows. I don't think I've ever met two people who belonged together more than you two." He chucked, "Except maybe Hannah and me."

His demeanor became more serious again as he said, "You have pledged your love to each other here in the sight of God, state and these witnesses and have exchanged rings as an earthly token of that pledge. By the powers vested in me by the sovereign state of Nevada and more importantly, by God Almighty, I pronounce you man and wife. May you live long and be fruitful in your union. You may kiss the bride."

Mulder and I had been facing each other throughout his final decree. We had been holding hands during our vows, and now Mulder pulled me into his embrace and kissed me. It was a long, slow kiss with depth and passion but no lust, only commitment. I kissed him back with the same level of love, then deepened our kiss and threw in as much heat as I could in a public house of the Lord.

When we pulled apart, Kevin was blushing and the St. Nicholes were hugging one another.

We moved to the side of the altar and signed the marriage certificate, stepping aside for the signatures of our witnesses.

I hugged George and Hannah, as they insisted we call them, and thanked them again. We made arrangements to pick up the video of our wedding the next day and turned to leave.

Kevin was waiting at the back of the church, just out of range of the video camera, smiling nervously at us. We asked him to join us for dinner but he declined. He had a train to catch. He shook Mulder's hand and looked at me. Mulder moved back to the St. Nicholes to thank them and I opened my arms to him for a hug.

I held him in my embrace for a long moment, trying to memorize the face that was already so familiar to me. I kissed him on the cheek and whispered to him, "I'm so glad you told me you are my offspring." I couldn't call them my sons yet. I didn't know if I ever could. "I care for you all. I wish I had been able to know you when you were first... er... born. I'm so sorry you have been manipulated by fate and I wish you only happiness for the future."

"Thank you ... Mother," he said quietly. He stepped over to bench next to the door and brought out the wedding present he had been holding when he arrived.

"This is for you from all of us. Please promise not to open it until you get back to your room."

"If this is a gift from Victoria's Secret, I'm going to have to have a talk with you and all your brothers," I teased.

Once again the 'Charlie smile' flashed across his face and was gone. "No, Mother. It's not a gag gift, but it is personal and I would never want to embarrass you."

"Thank you, Kevin. Promise that you will keep in touch .. if it's safe to do so. Tell all the others hello and that I'm glad they made it home safely." My voice cracked as I began to cry again. "Let us know that they made it, all right?"

He nodded and walked back over to Mulder to shake his hand. Mulder shook his hand then pulled him into a manly embrace that embarrassed both of them. I could tell they were both pleased with the moment.

Kevin spoke quietly to Mulder and handed him an envelope. My curiosity was piqued, but I shrugged it off as Mulder's wedding present from the 'boys'.

Another quick hug and he was gone. I wondered if I would ever see him again. What a beautiful young man he was, so like Charlie and so unlike any other human on this earth. I felt like crying, and it wasn't going to be tears of happiness this time.

Mulder's embrace stopped me. He held me from behind and whispered into my ear, "How about we get out of here and finish that kiss somewhere more conducive to a honeymoon, Mrs. Mulder." He turned me to face him and the sparkles in his eyes made me feel better right away.

"I don't know, Mr. Scully, where did you have in mind?" I shot back.

Mulder let out a deep belly laugh and hugged me tighter. "Mr. Scully, huh?"

I just smiled up at him.

"Well, we'll have to talk about that, but right now, I have a surprise for you." He led me back over to the St. Nicholes and we thanked them again.

XXXXXXXXX

We left in the Mustang and drove straight back to our hotel. The concierge met us at the door and assured Mulder that he had handled all the arrangements as requested.

"Thanks, Hank." Mulder said as he began pulling me towards the elevators. If I hadn't been in as much of a hurry as he was, it would have either irritated me or embarrassed me.

We got onto the elevator and I pressed the button for our floor. Mulder stepped around me and slid a key card into the controls and pressed a higher number.

I looked at him, silently asking what he was doing, but he silenced any questions with a long, hot kiss that only ended when we got to the upper floor.

"I love you, Scully," he said as he lifted me into his arms, present and all, and carried me to the bridal suite across from the elevator. The bellhop waiting there opened the door and Mulder carried me across the threshold and straight to the bedroom of the suite, without giving me a chance to look around.

He put me down and told me to stay right where I was, "I mean it, Scully. Don't move."

He rushed back to the front door and gave the bellhop a tip, putting the DO NOT DISTURB sign on the outside handle. He locked the door and turned back to me.

I was able to see everything from right where I was, so for once I did exactly as he requested and didn't move.

The smile that he gave me was worth the aggravation of being told what to do. I smiled back.

Mulder kissed me and pulled me down to sit beside him on the bed. I stared at the room as he watched my reactions.

"Mulder, this is..."

"Too much? If you don't like it, we can go back to our old room or even to another hotel," he said nervously.

"No! It's perfect. It's just so... perfect." And it was. Everything was tastefully decorated, from the linens gracing the bed to the fresh flowers on the dresser, I couldn't have dictated a more perfect honeymoon location. We could have been anywhere, Paris, Rome, Hawaii, anywhere. And for all the time we were going to spend outside of these walls, it didn't matter.

Everything I wanted was on the bed with me. Well, everything but a few bottles of fine wine and a dozen or so room service meals.

Oh, yeah, and whatever was in the gift wrapped box from Kevin that I still held in my arms.

"Don't you want to put that over on the dresser, Scully, and get a little more comfortable?" Mulder began to slide the zipper in my dress down, but I pulled away.

"Wait, Mulder. We have to call my mother and I don't want to do it in my birthday suit."

He smirked and said, "Why? Of all people, she's seen it more times than I have."

"That's just the point. She'll know we're on our honeymoon and that's awkward enough without me being stark naked while I talk to her."

"Ooooohhhh... Scully. Let's talk more about mutual nakedness," he said and kissed the top of my shoulder as he tried to sneak his other hand around to unzip me again.

I chuckled and moved up the bed towards my cell phone. He waggled his eyebrows at me and began to crawl forward, a beatific smile on his face.

I grabbed my cell phone and hit speed dial #3 with one hand, holding up a controlling forefinger to halt his approach. He grinned and flopped over on the bed behind me after he stripped off his suit coat and tie.

I had put off calling Mom until today because I was nervous. I had not told her where we were even though the undercover portion of the case was technically over. I knew she was going to be surprised by my news, so I didn't actually, precisely, exactly tell her that we were in Reno not in Europe. I wanted to explain everything to her when we were together, not over the phone.

As I expected, Mom was happy for the both of us. She cried and I cried and then she talked to Mulder and darned if he didn't cry too. The good part was that we were smiling as tears streamed down our faces.

Mulder and I snuggled together after the call and told each other what she said. We were both feeling the joy of finally being fully committed and not having to hide our feelings anymore; from each other or the outside world. There were going to be some shocked people when we returned to Washington D.C.

A few moments later, Mulder kissed me on my forehead and rolled off the bed. He kicked off his shoes and pulled his shirt out of his pants. He unbuttoned it as he walked towards the wine chilling on the table by the window.

"Are you ready for some Asti?" Mulder asked.

"Asti?"

"Yes. Asti Spumonte. It's a sparkling white wine that's better than champagne and won't give you a headache."

Sometimes I forgot that Mulder was raised in an entirely different social atmosphere that I. Sometimes, it was all too evident.

"Yes, please. I'll try a small glass. Then come on, let's open our first wedding present."

I was so engrossed in trying to guess what was in the package from Kevin that the pop of the cork startled me. Mulder joined me on the bed, handing me my glass.

"A toast," he said. "To the Scully-Mulders! Long may we love."

I smiled at him and said, "To us!"

We drank the Asti quickly. It was delicious. Once again Mulder was right, but I wasn't afraid to tell him this time.

He poured us another drink and then we opened the present.

Under the wrapping paper was a heavy cardboard box that had been sealed and marked, 'Danger, Bio-hazardous materials enclosed'.

I gawked at the box and then back at Mulder. "Do you think we should open it here, or should we wait for a level 4 clean room set up to open it?"

"I don't think Kevin would do anything to hurt you, Scully. I think this is just to discourage others from messing with it if it got into the wrong hands."

Did we really know them? Could we trust them? I looked at the box for a moment longer and realized that I agreed with Mulder. Kevin would not do anything harmful on purpose.

"Do you have a knife that we can use to open this, Mulder?" I asked.

He reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a Swiss Army knife. He sliced open the tape and let me open the box.

I stared at the cylinder resting in the packaging and was just as confused as I had been moments before.

"What is it, Mulder?" I asked. I could tell that he thought he knew what was in the cylinder, but didn't want to make a guess. I wondered if it was alien DNA or something, the proof we'd been seeking all along.

"Let's read the letter Kevin gave me and see if it holds an explanation," he answered. He retrieved the letter Kevin had given him and turned it over.

On the front of the envelope in large letters were the words: 'TO BE READ BY MULDER-FIRST!'

I shrugged and he moved back to read the letter first before sharing the contents with me. I could tell by the look of shock on his face that this was big.

"Mulder?" I prodded him after watching him finish the letter and stare into space for a moment or two. "Mulder, say something! Is it good news? Bad news? Is it the evidence of their existence?" Curiosity was driving me crazy.

He looked at me as if coming out of a trance, "I'm sorry, Scully. It's just... overwhelming."

"What?" I was ready to explode with curiosity.

"It's the best news possible, Scully. We might be able to have a family."

"What?" I gasped, not willing to allow myself to believe that the cylinder contained what he was implying it contained.

"The cylinder is your ova. All of the rest of them. They're clean and ready to fertilize. They haven't been altered in any way. We could have children." Mulder's grin was now almost splitting his face in two.

"Oh, my God! I thought... I thought they blew up with all the others at the cryogenics lab," I said. "A family?"

Mulder grinned he read me a paragraph from the letter.

"'Mother's, Agent Scully's, ova were not stored with the others. We had replaced her ova with another specimen that proved inferior in a test run and hid Agent Scully's ova in a secret vault in the kitchen of the facility. We figured the world didn't need any more of us. When the bid for freedom came, we were going to take all of her ova away from our captors, and find a way to return them to her. Imagine our surprise when our saviors were you, Agent Mulder, and our Mother.'"

"Mulder, we have to get them to a laboratory, they mustn't be allowed to spoil." I jumped up from the bed and looked nervously around for my suitcase. We needed to protect our future children.

"Scully, it's all right. Kevin says that the cylinder should not be opened and it will protect the eggs for up to one year. It's filled with liquid nitrogen and the inner container is at absolute zero. It's good for a year, Scully. A year."

"A year?" I repeated to make sure there was no mistake.

"Yeah, a year." Mulder took me into his arms and hugged me. He was trembling as hard as I was. A family. We might be able to have a family. In vitro fertilization was not always successful, but if the eggs had not been altered, and with this many, we would have a good chance.

"Scully," he said softly.

A feeling of foreboding washed over me. "What's the catch?"

"Oh, no catch, Scully, but there's more."

"More...?"

Mulder nodded and kissed me again. He pulled away and looked deeply into my eyes before speaking.

"There's a child..."

"Like Emily?" I interrupted.

"No, not like Emily. Do you remember when Kevin was telling us about who he was-they are? He said, 'We are all from the one fetus created by mixing the sperm of a man named Kurt Crawford, who was a brilliant bio-chemist and researcher and your ova, Agent Scully. We are all hybrid clones of your offspring.'" He grew silent again and let me absorb his words.

My brain went into overload, but his meaning became perfectly clear.

"There's a little boy out there, isn't there Mulder?"

"Yes. A normal little boy named Douglas Kurt Crawford. He's in an orphanage in upper New York state."

"Oh, my God!" I murmured. "Why... Why did he give you this information, Mulder? Why not just tell me directly?"

Mulder hesitated then said, "He didn't know if I would want to raise a child that wasn't mine. He was giving me the option of telling you about the ova, and not revealing the presence of the boy."

"Why?" I whispered.

"Because he knew that when we married it was no longer a decision for you alone. I think it was a test," he said finally.

"A test?" I seemed to be reduced to simple sentences.

"Yes, if we go to get him together, he'll be there, but if I had made inquiries singly, my money says he would have been moved before I got there."

I gazed deeply into his eyes, "What do you want to do, Mulder?"

"Scully!" he pulled me to him and said solemnly, "I told you before I was willing to adopt children born to strangers and raise them as our own. Why would you think I would hesitate to raise a child of yours, even one with another father?"

"Mulder, not every man is able to accept another man's child into his home and his heart," I began.

"I understand that, Scully. But this is a rather unique situation. The original Kurt Crawford is dead. You never met him, let alone had sex with him. Your ova and his sperm were combined in a Petri dish or however they do it. A child was born and from that, the clones were engineered." He gave me a lopsided grin, "I might have some difficulties accepting the child of an old lover of yours, but not this innocent little boy. I'd be jealous of a dead man you never met, and that would be stupid."

I hugged him as tightly as I could. We were going to have a family. It was overwhelming. Even if the in vitro didn't work, we could have this little boy.

"Come on, Scully. Let's call the guys and get them working on a place to store the ova and tracking down little DK."

"DK?"

"Yeah, I really don't like the name Douglas very much, and Kurt is out."

"Okay, we'll think of something other than DK later." I agreed.

"Yeah, much later! Right now, I want to get these calls over with and get truckin' back to the honeymoon!" he grinned.

"Truckin'? Isn't that what got us into this in the first place?"

He gave me a big cheesy grin and said, "That's a 10-4, good buddy. Over and out."

THE END.


If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to FatCat Donnilee