Energy and Light

by Oracle

Title: Energy and Light
Author: Oracle
Classification: XRA
Rated: Strong R
Key Words: Mulder/Scully Romance, slightly AU Spoilers: The cancer arc, Detour
Disclaimer: Chris Carter owns them, I don't, so no profit for me.
Archive: Gossamer, please. Email me before archiving elsewhere. I don't see why I'd refuse. Summary: Four girls have vanished, each one on a different night. Each one by the light of a full moon. Is it just a coincidence?

Notes: Before anything else, I'd like to thank my wonderful beta, Artemis, who somehow found time to work on this during the hectic holiday season. Without her encouragement, corrections and advice, this story would be in a sorry state indeed--probably never to be finished on my hard drive <g>

Also, a big thanks to Lib, who beta-ed this story's first part and helped me get started. Good luck with college, Lib!

Thanks to Tamra, for helping me to revise this story and make it work better!

And thanks to Circe Invidiosa, for providing me with such a beautiful web page :)
www.invidiosa.com/oracle

Now, about the story...I had an idea, I ran with it, and then I realised it wouldn't fit exactly into the show's canon. I didn't want to change anything, so I decided to make it AU. What this means is--the story is set in Season Five sometime after Patient X/The Red and the Black (I wanted Mulder as a believer)--but there is no mention of Emily. Also, ignore everything Scully said about the occult in Chinga (a.k.a. Bunghoney in some countries).


He is radiant. She wonders if he is a flame, but he doesn't flicker, doesn't move.

He glows.

She squints because the darkness is blinding. He seems to have been cut into it--one slit in a black canvas. She is part of the darkness, and he is the only light, the only difference.

She has always wanted him.

There is no choice--she walks closer. Silently, steadily, she walks closer, afraid to startle him. Closer.

But then he vanishes. Was he ever there at all?

She is left wanting him even more.


MONDAY

"What are we looking for, Mulder?" asks Scully, the words sounding clipped and civilised in the pagan wilderness.

It's a quiet day, even with a gentle wind swirling through the forest. The clearing in front of them is lush with tiger lilies, swaying softly and nodding their vibrant heads. Golden sunlight reflects from every surface, making Scully feel fuzzy and light-headed. The leaves glimmer emerald-green, and the scents of flowers, crisp greenery and mouldering earth have mingled together in the air, drugging her senses.

Mulder is gazing into the field of lilies, but his attention is focused inward. She can't understand why he suddenly walked off the road, into the forest, but she knows that somewhere in his mind, an idea has been sown. Now he'll nurture it until it can block out her rationalizations.

"I'm not sure, Scully," he says, after a time. "I just have a feeling about this place. The girls all lived near here."

Four girls, she thinks. Their faces appear in her mind's eye, one by one. Smiling schoolgirl faces--one with braces, one with a pierced nose. Four girls who have vanished, each one on a different night. Each one by the light of a full moon.

It sounds melodramatic and enchanting, but it's probably it's just a coincidence. At least, that's what she thinks. Mulder has other ideas.

"We have to get going, Mulder. The Sheriff's expecting us in -" she checks her watch "- five minutes." She's annoyed by her prim tone, and feels like she did as a child, trying to get Melissa to school on time. She looks up at Mulder, shielding her eyes from the sun. She wonders if he thinks of her as straight-laced, sensible, and precisely on time.

He suddenly shifts his attention to her. "I just want to check this place out, Scully. There's something about this place...I don't know how to describe it. We'll only be a few minutes late." His stare is both penetrating and welcome, and she forgets what she was thinking.

She tries to be irked but feels pleased instead. Mulder has once again shunned rational thought to chase a hunch, and it has brought the two of them to this beautiful clearing. He often demonstrates a keen, secret knowledge of places like this. Places with an underlying mystery. Once he arrives, he's never afraid to explore what he finds, even if it reeks of ugliness and decay.

Resentful of having to follow him, Scully is too addicted to back away. Alone, she would never be able to discover the world like this. Had she been by herself, she would have walked straight from the motel to the Sheriff's office, maybe admiring the scenery a little along the way. But she's with Mulder, and something always catches his eye. He always manages to tug her away from the beaten path.

Mulder is wading through the lilies, looking around. Searching for something he cannot name or define. Something that might not even exist. She wades after him, cool petals brushing her thighs.

He bends gracefully and plucks a flower from the ground. When she reaches him, he turns and hands it to her. "M'lady," he says, smiling and bowing slightly.

She returns the smile but refrains from replying in kind. His gaze is dangerous, as it often is these days, so she focuses instead on his gift. The lily stem is soft and slightly furred against her palm, and the magnificent flower leans towards her face. Its bittersweet fragrance is barely there, but she catches a hint of it. "Thank you," she says finally, almost shyly.

Looking up, she sees he's glancing around again, prying into the atmosphere of this place. But then he stops and shakes his head, "Maybe I'm wrong, Scully. I can't see anything."

She gives their surroundings another once-over. A lily-choked clearing, surrounded by forest, with a clear blue sky overhead. Nothing more.

As they're walking back to the road, she pauses to leave her lily on a gnarled tree root, and gives it a glance of regret. When she stands up, she sees Mulder gazing over his shoulder. He's staring past her, into the forest.

"Did you notice something?"

He looks baffled for a moment, but then slowly shakes his head. "A trick of the light," he says, and they keep walking.

Behind them, the breeze remains calm, but the forest begins to rustle and creak.


Scully expects Sheriff Jenkins to be gruff and sneering. He's a big, burly man, wearing a uniform pulled tight by muscles. His mouth is a thin line beneath a bristling moustache and his beady eyes seem slightly ferocious. Faced with this bulk of a man, sitting behind his massive oak desk, Scully feels as small as a gnat.

Until he speaks. He has the disarming, jovial voice of a radio DJ, and Scully isn't sure whether to laugh or to sigh with relief. "I'm Mike," he says, leaning across his desk to shake hands with Mulder, "we spoke on the phone."

"This is my partner, Agent Scully."

Scully smiles politely, and extends her hand, somehow managing not to wince when Mike's big paw clamps over it.

"I'm so glad you folks could make it down here," says Mike, beaming like a kid on the fourth of July. "We've been working this case for months, ever since the second girl disappeared, and we still haven't found a trace of them. We don't know the whys, the hows or the whos of this one, I'm afraid. All we have is the goddamn full moon."

"Do you have any theories?" asks Mulder, leaning forward slightly. He looks like he has several already, and is just waiting to spin them out.

"We think they've been kidnapped, because we can't see why four young girls would run away in such a pattern. But then again, there's no evidence of kidnapping. No ransom notes, no telephone calls--nothing like that -" the Sheriff lowers his voice a little "- I heard you have a reputation for cracking cases like these. That's why I called you in. I think I'd better warn you now--my deputy doesn't agree with me. She's a real firecracker."

Scully bristles, shooting both men a sharp look.

"No offence, ma'am," says the Sheriff, abashed. "It's just this case...we're getting on each others nerves about it. No one has a clue what to do. That's the other reason I called you in--I think some people in my department need a break. My deputy is obsessing about this case. She'll call me up at night about it, always spouting another wild theory."

Scully clears her throat, trying not to look at Mulder. "Well, Sheriff, we'll certainly do everything possible to help."

"I'm sure you will," he says, smiling broadly. "My deputy will take you to each of the girls' houses this afternoon--she wants to speak to the parents again. After that you'll be on your own. But if you need any help at all, just come by my office."

"Thank you," they say automatically, as they stand. For a second Scully fears another handshake, but is saved when the Sheriff's phone rings. He gives them a wave as they walk out.


"I think you've done it this time, Mulder," she says, eyeing his French fries.

"Done what?"

"Found an unsolvable case." She turns her attention back to the file, which is packed with information about the four missing girls, and little else. "Mulder, there's no evidence. There's no motive. There's nothing but four missing girls, all of whom were seemingly well-adjusted."

He shrugs, "You never know, Scully. Maybe they did run away. There's only so much digging you can do, into the private life of a family."

"You think they were abused?"

"Not necessarily. I just think we should look into their family situations. And their social situations. Perhaps they were outcasts at school, and relied on each other for support. They might have formed a group together--a secret club, or maybe some kind of cult. It could be that the full moon was a significant symbol to them." She snags one of his fries, and he pretends to ignore the theft. "What do you think, Scully?"

"I think you're getting way ahead of yourself there, partner -" she's cut off when he snatches her half-finished soda and starts sucking it down "- hey, Mulder! Give that back!"

He smirks, his lips curving around the straw. "Fair's fair, G-woman," he says when he's done, handing her an empty glass.

"I hardly think one measly slice of potato is worth half a soda!"

A waitress suddenly materialises beside the table, and they both blink at her. Scully realises that ever since she sat down, her entire attention has been focused on Mulder and the case file. How she's managed to tune out the bustling diner is beyond her. It's brimming with the lunchtime crowd, consisting of everyone from roughened farm workers to real estate agents. Harried young mothers are gathered at one table, alternately calming and feeding their fussing babies. The table beside them is packed with Hell's Angels, scowling and drinking beer.

Scully thinks that it's strange, how in one moment Mulder will be showing her something new and wonderful, and in the next the world will be passing her by because she's so fixated on him.

With a sigh, Scully looks to the waitress, who is probably twenty but could pass for fifty. Her watery blue eyes are dwarfed by the bags beneath them. "How're you folks doing?" she asks, her face and voice devoid of expression.

"We're fi -" Scully begins, automatically.

"We'd like another orange soda," says Mulder, turning on the charm. The waitress offers him a wispy smile as she jots down the order.

"Mulder," hisses Scully, when they're alone. "I can't drink another soda."

"Who said you get to drink it all?"

He grins at her, and she grins back helplessly.

How did things become like this between them? She remembers last year's diners, when their conversations were filled with stops and starts, and she would shovel her food around to make it look like she was eating. Last year they would have been arguing right now, with him smug and hurt, and her avoiding his depthless eyes.

But right now, in the present, he's flashing smiles at her and "accidentally" nudging her foot beneath the table.

She "accidentally" nudges back.


They meet the deputy on the sidewalk outside the police department, in the blinding sun.

"Agents Mulder and Scully? I'm Officer June Curtis."

Curtis is a lithe, handsome woman, probably in her early fifties. Scully sizes her up as they shake hands, and can't help respond to the woman's warm smile and sparkling grey eyes.

"I suppose Sheriff Jenkins has already told you all about me," says Curtis, with more than a touch of sarcasm. Her friendly expression darkens a little. "He's not the most open-minded of men."

Although he's wearing sunglasses, Scully can sense Mulder's amusement. "There's a lot of that going around these days," he says, directing a smirk in Scully's direction. She resists a childish urge to elbow him in the ribs.

"Sheriff Jenkins told us you're reluctant to work with us," Scully says, confused by Curtis' amicable behaviour.

"Hogwash. That man needs to uncross his wires. You see, he called you in without consulting me--I only found out through his secretary. Naturally, I was pissed off, and I'm not the kind of woman to keep quiet when I've been given the run-around. But then I ran a background check on the two of you."

"And?" asks Mulder, as they begin walking to Curtis' car.

"Well, I have to admit, I'm intrigued. From what I've read about your work, you certainly don't fit into the FBI's mainstream. You have an individual approach to your investigations, with each of you coming at a case from a different angle. Plus, you're not afraid to explore the unexplained. I like it." Curtis flicks a button on her key chain, unlocking the car. Scully starts when she realises it's a Mercedes Benz.

"Old money," says Curtis, noticing Scully's inspection of the leather upholstery as they buckle in. Scully nods, embarrassed, and there's a short silence.

"So I gather we're going to the first girl's house? Bianca Greenwood's?" asks Scully, to alleviate the awkwardness.

Curtis smiles sadly, "Yep, the one and only. I used to babysit her, when she was younger -" she clears her throat "- anyway, I guess Jenkins told you I want to interview the parents again?" They nod. "Well, I don't. I've spoken to those poor people so many times now; it's like listening to a broken record."

"Then why are you driving us around?" Mulder asks from the backseat, watching Curtis' eyes in the rear-view mirror.

"I know it sounds odd, but I want to check out the plants in their backyards," she replies, pulling into the drive of a large, white house. "I've been looking into herbal lore, especially into the use of plants in spells. It's possible the girls were part of a coven and needed plants to perform certain rites. I think their involvement in an alternative religion could have brought about their disappearances."

As they step out of the car, Mulder stares at Curtis in awe, and Scully rolls her eyes at him.

"Oh," says Curtis, turning to face them. "Before we go in, I should tell you that the parents have decided to give us free reign. Even though this case isn't a confirmed kidnapping, you can do a thorough search of the girls' rooms."

Scully frowns, "Isn't that a little...intrusive?"

Curtis gives them a grim look. "These people are desperate to find their daughters. They'll do whatever it takes."


Bianca's room is plush and pale. Scully eyes the heavy, rose-petalled curtains with distaste, as Mulder roots around under the bed. He disturbs a pile of magenta pillows, which cascade onto the floor around him. Scully tries not to giggle.

"Nothing," he announces, standing up and glancing around. "Hey Scully, where did you hide your secret diary, when you were a girl?"

"You're assuming I had a secret diary."

He starts in on the chest of drawers, and she watches with mild amusement. "Aw, come on, Scully. Every girl has a diary." He turns to look at her, panting slightly, and she quirks her eyebrows at him. "What?"

She shrugs and pulls a chair over to the tallest cupboard. When she climbs up she sees it, lying right against the wall. A sparkly pink diary, coated with dust. Scully tries not to gloat when she takes it down and shows Mulder. It's not often that she out-investigates him. Usually she's playing Watson to his Holmes.

"How did you know?" he asks, agape.

"It's where Melissa always kept her diary. One day I saw her hiding it, so as soon as I had the chance I took it down and read it, cover to cover. Most of it was a whiny diatribe about our conservative parents." Whenever Scully mentions her sister, Mulder's face droops with guilt and regret, and this time is no exception. But this time, she has the means to cease his wallowing. "Here," she says, "you want to read?" She hands him the small book, and brushes off her dusty hands.

He perks up immediately, getting back into sleuth-mode. "Ah..." he flips through it a bit "...let's see. Something about her annoying best friend, her parents, a C on a project. Oh, listen to this - 'I hate myself. I wish I was prettier, and my nose wasn't so big, and I didn't have braces. I'm so ugly and the guys all laugh at me. I see them, in the school corridor and the cafeteria. Robert is the worst. And it's terrible because he's so hot. I have the most unbelievable crush on him'."

"It sounds like something out of 'Sweet Valley High'." Scully takes the diary and peers at Bianca's outrageously curly script. "Do you think we should speak to this Robert?"

"Maybe," says Mulder, discarding the diary to nose around in the homework papers on Bianca's desk. The room seems to have been left exactly as it was when Bianca still inhabited it. The clutter, combined with the fine sheen of dust over everything, is faintly disturbing.

"Come on," says Scully, bagging the diary. "Three to go."


"I think this proves the existence of alternate universes," says Scully, after stepping out of the Jones' ordinary suburban home, into their daughter Sara's room.

The room features torn 'Korn' posters, piles of black clothes, a dog collar on the bedside table, a huge stereo system, and shelves packed with strange jars and velvet-coated books. A black pentacle has been hastily etched on the ceiling.

"I think we've hit the jackpot, Scully. Sara was obviously involved in some kind of alternative religion. Possibly a mild form of satanism." He walks over to a shelf and starts picking everything up, studying the odd little books, carved candles and other paraphernalia. "Or maybe not satanism..." he says, surprised. "It looks like she did a lot of love spells. Maybe she was a Wicca and a Goth. "

"Love spells? Wiccan Goths?" For the second time, Scully thinks of her sister, although this version of Melissa is an adult, decked in a flowing velvet dress with a crystal dangling from her necklace. "Missy would give me spiritual advice, but I never knew where it was coming from. I don't know what she would have called herself."

Before his guilt can make an appearance, she steps over to him and takes a scarlet candle from his hand, brushing her thumb against his palm. Their eyes lock.

"How do you know about this stuff, anyway?" she asks, ending the moment.

"General knowledge. Although, I probably know as much about paganism as Sara did, if not more."

"What makes you say that?" Scully sniffs the candle, recoiling at its musty, sickly aroma. Patchouli? She puts it down and turns to a stack of CDs.

"Well, there are numerous versions of modern paganism. Pagans practice magic through many different mediums. Although conservatives tend to brand it all under "Devil-worshipping black arts", methods of practicing magic vary greatly, and paganism doesn't involve devil-worship. Lucifer was a Catholic invention, after all."

"Your point being?" asks Scully, deciding to ignore the dig at conservatives.

"Judging by the conglomeration of various symbols and spells in her room, Sara didn't understand the differences between numerous pagan beliefs. She must have decided to become a witch without doing much research. It looks like she was desperate to start practicing magic -" he pauses, then adds, ominously "- and maybe she stumbled upon something she couldn't control."

"You're speaking of her in the past tense," says Scully, as she starts checking out the CDs. They include every Korn album, 'Ava Adore' by the Smashing Pumpkins, a quaint looking album by a band called Rasputina and several Sepultura singles. Scully chuckles when she finds a Natalie Imbruglia album, right at the bottom of the stack. Then she realises Mulder hasn't spoken for some time. "Mulder?"

He's sitting on the rumpled bed, leafing through a large, leather-bound book. "Check it out, Scully. This was Sara's private spell book. There are journal entries, too. She talks a lot about her chemistry teacher--a Mr. Samuel Kirk."

"Interesting," says Scully, coming to sit beside him. She sees that Sara's writing is a hasty scrawl, written in blood red Sharpie. The differences between Sara and Bianca are astounding. The two girls seem to have nothing in common. Or had nothing in common, as the case might be.

"Listen to this--'Mr. Kirk is like some dark angel, who has come to save me from this most mundane existence. My life is a black hole, slowly sucking me under, but his passionate dark eyes will save me. Alas, my magic is the only thing that can bind us together.'"

"We should definitely have a word with him," says Scully, "that is, if the local police haven't already discovered this."

"I don't think they have, Scully," he says. "There are so many books in this room, and they all look so similar. The police probably didn't read through all of this--they don't have the time, or the manpower. I found this book at the bottom of a pile." He turns the expensive-looking book over in his hands, to reveal its spine, which has some kind of polished, pearly stone stuck onto it.

"What is it?"

"A moon stone," he murmurs, rubbing his thumb over the opaque gem.


They've had incredible luck so far, but this kind of providence never lasts. Scully isn't surprised when Hannah's room yields nothing but a window box cache of well-read Harlequin romance novels, frilly lingerie with price tags still attached, and an unopened box of flavoured condoms.

"A girl after my own heart," says Mulder.


Jennifer Kiel's room is deceptively girlish, with big posters of a boy band on the walls, and a fluffy throw rug on the floor. However, her collection of books and CDs instantly dispels the stereotype.

"Amazing," Mulder exclaims, running a finger along the spines of several novels. "She's got Dostoyevsky, Dickens, Tolstoy and the Bronte sisters...and Sylvia Plath, Margaret Atwood, J.D. Salinger, Mark Twain..." his voice trails off.

"Jen's an avid reader," says her father, who insisted on coming into the room with them. "Ever since she was seven years old, she's read everything she can get her hands on. She loves poetry too." He takes one of the books down, handing it to Mulder. "Alfred, Lord Tennyson is her favourite. But she's also fond of modern poets, like e.e. cummings and Ezra Pound."

Scully watches the man as he speaks, noting his tired green eyes and the deep lines of sadness carved at the corners of his mouth. His voice attempts brevity, but he only manages weariness. Before, when she realised he was determined to accompany them into his daughter's room, she'd had her suspicions. Now she realises he just wants to be part of the investigation. He's a single parent--a widower. With Jennifer gone, he's all alone in the house.

"Does Jennifer keep a diary?" she asks, giving him a purpose.

"I've searched this room from top to bottom, several times, but I haven't found anything. I've even checked her laptop--every single file. All I discovered is that she's been working on a novel for quite a while."

"Really?" Mulder asks, clearly fascinated. "She's only fifteen. Is it any good?"

"I didn't read all of it, but you have my blessing to take the laptop and see what you think. If there's anything I can do to help--anything at all--I'll do it..." for an instant, Scully thinks he might lose his composure, but he doesn't break down. "I just want her found," he continues, after a pause. "None of this makes sense to me. I don't think she has a connection to the other missing girls, and she certainly doesn't have a sordid secret. I know her. She would never have run away."

Scully exchanges a glance with Mulder. The other parents have told them roughly the same thing.

"We'll keep you informed," she says, tenderness softening her polite tone.


"Did you turn up anything?" asks Curtis, as they pull out of the Kiels' drive.

"I was about to ask you the same question," says Mulder, absently stroking his stubbled jaw. Scully tries not to envy his hand. "Listen, Curtis," he continues, "I have a very similar theory to yours, and I agree with a lot of what you said earlier. But I don't think plants are the place to look."

Curtis laughs quietly, "You're telling me now? I'm going to be scrubbing my nails for weeks to get rid of the grime, and I didn't find a thing. Aside from the Greenwoods' cat, which leapt out of a hydrangea bush."

"I think it's highly unlikely these girls were part of a coven," says Scully.

"Oh come on, Scully," Mulder responds, shaking his head in disbelief. "You saw Sara's room."

"Yes, but that's only one girl, Mulder. One. And the second girl to disappear, I might add. You can't say she started off a chain reaction by vanishing into a cloud of smoke."

"So what's your theory, Scully?"

She stares out the window for a beat, annoyed by his slightly mocking tone. "I think the girls mimicked each other," she says, at last. "I think Bianca ran away first--for whatever reason--and just happened to leave on the night of a full moon. Sara heard about her and decided to copycat, thinking it was a "cool" idea. The next two girls did the same."

"Maybe," says Curtis, finally breaking into the argument, "but Agent Scully, those girls had no good reason to run away...well, possibly aside from Sara. And if they did leave on their own volition, why didn't they leave a note? Or at least take some money?"

Scully looks to Mulder, who raises his eyebrows at her, expecting her to keep arguing. But she doesn't know what else to say.


"I've arranged interviews at the high school for tomorrow."

"Hmm?" Mulder looks up from his laptop, tired eyes peering at her through his glasses.

"I said, I've arranged interviews at the high school for tomorrow," Scully repeats, flopping onto his bed. "With Mr. Kirk, and with the once mysterious Robert. His last name is Bradbury."

"I wonder if he's related to Ray," says Mulder, taking off his glasses and wiping them on the edge of his grey T-shirt. Scully sucks in a sigh of disappointment. She's developed a strange fetish for him in glasses.

She discards her thoughts and gets straight to the point. "Mulder, are you making any progress? Because I'm not." She sits and perches on the edge of the bed, staring down at her folded hands. "I've read some of Jen's novel, and it's pretty good, considering it was written by someone so young."

"What's it about?"

Scully sighs and looks up at him. "A lonely young woman, pining after a married man. It's a period drama, reminiscent of Jane Austen novels. So far, it's very depressing. And I don't think it will help us at all." She never wants to look at it again. It reminded her of her relationship with Daniel.

"I don't know, Scully. Maybe it could help us."

She raises her eyebrows in query and his eyes dart away, almost nervously. He seems embarrassed by what he's about to say, and she's startled. Mulder is never embarrassed. Maybe, she thinks, he's uncomfortable for some reason.

"Scully, it seems the only thing these girls had in common was their loneliness. Hannah was obsessed with becoming sexually active, but she didn't have a boyfriend. Sara was trying to seduce Mr. Kirk with potions and incantations. Bianca was experiencing self-esteem issues and had a crush on the unattainable Robert. And Jen was writing a novel about a lonely woman."

A lonely woman. Scully stares down at her hands again. "You've got a point Mulder, however I don't see what it has to do with our investigation."

"Neither do I." He yawns dramatically and rubs his eyes. "I've just got a feeling about it...it's the only thing linking the disappearances, aside from the moon."

"Speaking of the moon, how's your research coming along?"

"Well..." he turns to his laptop and opens a window, displaying a site called 'Esoteric Moon Maidens'. Scully gives an unladylike snort. "Mock me all you like, Scully, but this site is run by Moira Ravenwaves."

"Who?"

"Moira Ravenwaves. I've heard of her before--she's a leading practitioner of Wicca, and has written several novels on the subject. She's also a university lecturer at Berkley, teaching anthropology."

"So what does this Ravenwaves woman have to say about the moon?"

" 'The moon is a symbol of energy and light, and moves in a cycle of energy. As the moon waxes, the energy field available to practitioners increases in intensity. Thus, it is wise to complete spells of creation and renewal under a waxing moon...The cycle is completed while the moon wanes and energy levels decrease. This time should be utilised for spells of destruction, such as a spell to break an already completed charm...It is important to note that beneath a full moon, energy levels are at their highest. This is a time of great power--a time when practitioners must be wise in their use of magic. It is also a time when energy, negative or positive, can be drawn easily from one source to another.' "

He looks at her, and she sees that his weariness is only a facade. Beneath it burns the fire of enthusiasm. Oh no. "Mulder, surely you don't believe..."

"...that the girls' energy--their life force--has been taken to another plane somehow? A higher plane?"

"Something like that," she mumbles, yawning herself. "Mulder, I don't believe in any of this. I mean...don't energy fields go with things like chakras and auras? You sound like an aging hippie Mulder. Even if you're right, how come thousands of teenage girls and boys don't disappear every year? Why hasn't this happened before?"

"Maybe it has. It wouldn't be a common occurrence, Scully."

She yawns again, then smiles softly. "Look Mulder, I'm tired, and I don't think we should get into this right now."

"Are you backing out of an argument, Scully?"

She stands and moves over to him, their knees almost brushing. "I thought we were having a discussion, Mulder. And it can wait till tomorrow."

"Uh-uh, Scully. Time is ticking. There'll be another full moon on Tuesday."

"You Spidey sense picking up a change in energy Mulder?" Scully asks, cocking an eyebrow.

He grins at her. "Yes. And I checked the paper this morning." He pauses, clearly thinking hard about something, "Look, Scully, I'm not expecting you to believe any of this, I just think we should treat it as a possibility. There's a high chance someone else's daughter will disappear on Tuesday night, but there should be a way of preventing it. We have to explore all avenues."

"I know," she says simply. On the spur of the moment, she decides to ask him something she wasn't sure she should mention. "Mulder, have you thought that maybe they've been, ah...taken." She often finds it difficult to say the word "Samantha", or even "abduction", but that's okay. He knows what she means.

"No, Scully." His eyes shine with pain, and she regrets saying anything. "There's no evidence these girls were abducted. No unusual scorch marks or other abnormalities. Plus, no recent UFO sightings. I checked into it before we left--the last sighting in this area was reported in 1950, and it turned out to be Venus." They both smile faintly at that. "I also got the guys to run a thorough background check on the girls' families, and they dug up nothing. No ties to the government and no links to other abductees."

"And you're okay? You're okay with this case?"

He nods, his lips quirking slightly. She's surprised to realise he's slightly amused. Too tired to even attempt comprehension, she mutters a "good night, see you tomorrow", and starts for the door.

Mulder reaches up and gently enfolds her hand, pulling her back. "I am okay, Scully," he says, his voice softly, strangely dark. "I'm more than okay. I want you to know that." His skin is always so smooth and warm; she thinks it must taste of cocoa, or maybe cappuccino. "Scully?"

"Well then..." she tries to respond, utterly confused, and utterly aroused. Their contact zings through her blood, as heat blossoms around her heart. "That's um..."

He grins and drops her hand, obviously sensing her discomfort. "It's fine, Scully, don't worry about it. Go get your beauty sleep."

"'Night, Mulder."

She misses their eye contact as soon as it breaks.


TUESDAY

Mulder traces a rib with his index finger, his thumb pressing into her navel. She writhes like a fish on a hook, gasping for oxygen as he nips at her throat. His lips travel around her mouth, his hands moving to draw lines beneath her breasts. She arches her back, straining to press her belly against him, but he's too high above her. His tongue flickers against her cheek, lizard-like. His hot breath lingers on her lips, but he won't follow it with his mouth. His nose brushes hers, an Eskimo kiss.

"Kiss me," she tries.

Thumbs stroke her belly, lips move across her jaw, for hours, for days. He won't kiss her; he'll never kiss her.

"Shit," Scully gasps, into the empty motel room. Her head is throbbing, and her leg is hovering in midair.

When she sits up she almost falls off the edge of the bed. She rubs her sore scalp as she reaches to switch on the lamp.

"Damn it," she mutters, realising that she's hit her head on the bedside table. She stares at the mess of tangled sheets around her legs, and wonders how it's possible--she started the night on top of the comforter. Her pyjamas are askew and her hair seems to have transformed into a bird's nest.

The digital clock numbers gleam in the darkness, like the red eyes of a goblin peering out of a cave. 4:43.

She combs fingers through her hair, cursing under her breath. It feels good to curse in the wee hours of the morning, well before the sun comes up. In daylight she's punctual, respectable and mature. There's never a hair out of place, never a smudge of lipstick on her shiny front teeth, and never a button undone...well, except in extreme circumstances.

But at this hour she is wild. Her imagination roams free, a panther prowling through her rational mind, shredding her thoughts. Her desires are not only allowed, but welcomed.

As always, she thinks of Mulder. She imagines how the muscles of his back might ripple beneath her fingernails. Working herself with her fingers, she moans into the pillow, hoping she won't be ashamed later on.

After, she can't get back to sleep. The ratty motel curtains resemble gossamer shrouds in the moonlight. She sits on a chair beside the window, her face pressed against the glass until her nose turns cold. Gradually, she dozes off.


Scully looks out the car window as they inch along Main St., stuck behind a farmer's cabbage laden pick-up truck. They pass an old-fashioned bakery, with plump cakes and pies displayed in the window. Then a clothes store, a supermarket, a pharmacist, and a gift store called 'Trash and Treasure'. The last store in the line has an unusual name--'The Tortoiseshell Cat'--written in large purple calligraphy. There's also a painting of said cat, wearing a black witch's hat and cape.

"Hey Mulder, check it out," she points as they go past. "That must be the New Age store where Sara bought her supplies."

"We can look into it this afternoon," he replies, his voice grating and his knuckles white on the steering wheel. He's casting an evil eye at the pick-up truck.

"Mulder, calm down." Instinctively, she places a hand on one of his, but when he flinches she quickly withdraws it. "Sorry," she mutters, turning to gaze out the window again, berating herself.

The pick-up turns off down an unpaved track, and she senses Mulder relaxing beside her. "No Scully, I'm sorry," he says, and his long fingers twine with her own. "I think I need Road Rage Anonymous meetings," he jokes weakly, but she smiles at him anyway.

She strokes the pad of her thumb across his pulse point, and he gives her an unreadable look.


The school is an ordinary brick building, much like any other school in a small town. A utility for learning, with bitumen basketball courts out the front and a football field on the side. Inside, it's a maze of cream corridors with the occasional--'Say No to Drugs'--poster stuck onto a wall.

As Scully passes classrooms she looks through the glass panes in their doors, watching students smile and joke during class. Their teachers are similarly relaxed. It's late spring and the exams are over, so school is just a formality for them. Scully recalls the anticipation that came before summer, when she'd looked forward to swimming at the local pool, stargazing with her latest boyfriend, or lazing around at home in the heat, eating popsicles. Simple, normal activities.

Activities she's happily traded to co-exist with Mulder in his dangerous world. She wonders if he knows about her lack of regrets. She remembers her past life with nostalgia, but deep down she can't even imagine living that life again. Although terrible things have been done to her and her family since she started working with Mulder, she has found a purpose in her life that could not be replaced with a safe, yet humdrum, existence. She wishes Mulder would notice how she usually feels about the X-files, instead of dwelling on the occasional pang of melancholy she expresses at losing her chance for a normal life.

And she wishes Mulder would see that it's not only their work she can no longer live without.

When they get to Samuel Kirk's classroom, where he's agreed to meet them during a spare period, Scully puts these thoughts out of her mind. She tells herself to focus on the investigation, and the interrogation she and Mulder are about to do.

Kirk greets them warmly when they walk in, and she sees immediately that he could put Heathcliff to shame. He's a mixture of cliched tall-dark-handsome and rugged good looks, and Sara's probably not the only one in his class with a schoolgirl crush.

Even Scully might have found him attractive once...before Mulder. Now all she sees are ways Kirk doesn't measure up. His smaller hands, his paler skin, his duller eyes. Scully's not sure when she found herself unable to date--it just happened. Aside from Ed Jerse, she hasn't been with a man in four years. She's not even sure if Jerse counts.

Mulder doesn't know she feels this way, and she hopes he'll remain ignorant. She's never seen him glance at a beautiful woman with disdain.

Suddenly she catches herself, and captures her waning attention. Lately her firm control has been slipping, and she worries she might start daydreaming if she doesn't reign herself in. She focuses on Kirk's classroom --the chalk equations on the board, the neat rows of desks, and Kirk's cluttered workspace between them. Her traitorous emotions flow away.

"We'd like to ask you a few questions about one of your students," Mulder begins, after they sit down. "Do you remember Sara Jones?"

Kirk looks sad, but that's it. Sad. Scully sees no passion flare in his expression, or even any pain. There's just the suitable, expected grief of a teacher who has lost a student.

"I heard about her disappearance," Kirk says, his voice slightly sorrowful. "What a terrible thing, especially for her family. I met her mother earlier in the year, during parent/teacher interviews--a very kind woman. And Sara is an exceptionally bright girl." He gives them a querulous look, "I was under the impression she ran away. Are you treating this as a kidnapping?"

"The cause of Sara's disappearance is as yet unknown," says Scully. "At the moment we're simply checking into everything."

"Did you know Sara well?" Mulder asks quickly, trying to catch Kirk off guard.

But the man is utterly unperturbed. "Just as well as my other students." He seems puzzled by Mulder's question, but then his eyes narrow and fill with anger. "Is this an interrogation? Am I a suspect?"

Scully glances at Mulder, meeting his eyes. Her expression tells him she doesn't think this is their perp, and he lifts his eyebrows slightly in agreement. There's nothing amiss about Kirk--no unusual reactions or behaviour.

Mulder smiles politely, "Like Agent Scully said, we're just checking into everything. We'd appreciate it if you could tell us anything you know about Sara."

Kirk seems to relax a little, although his eyes remain wary. "She was a gifted student--almost obsessed with obtaining the highest grades. Unfortunately, this made her a bit of a social outcast. Her unusual sense of humour and alternative dress sense just made things worse for her. She often seemed very lonely--she'd stay after class to help me pack up experiments." He smiles fondly, adding, "I hope she's okay."

"We'll find her," says Mulder, although for once it doesn't sound like he entirely believes it.


They've decided not to drag Robert out of class. With nothing but Bianca's vague allusions to go on, they're not treating him as a suspect just yet. As they wait outside his classroom, they take the opportunity to discuss Kirk. Or rather, to concur about Kirk.

"I just don't think it's him, Mulder. I know some of the things he said sounded suspicious, like the fact Sara often stayed after class to help him. But there was nothing in his manner to suggest they were anything more than teacher and student."

"I agree wholeheartedly, Scully," says Mulder, for once without sarcasm. He looks a bit sheepish, as though by rights he should be arguing with her.

"Wow, can I quote you on that?"

"Sure, just as long as I get to tell people about that time you -"

"Save it, Mulder."

"Jeremiah was a bullfrog, Scully."

Scully sighs, pretending to be exasperated. Really she's trying to stop blushing, embarrassed at both her tuneless singing and the state of arousal she'd found herself in that night, sitting in the forest with him cradled in her lap.

"Anyway Mulder," she says, "aside from Sara's obvious infatuation, there was nothing in her diary to implicate him -"

"Nada."

"- so even if we did suspect something, we'd have nothing but speculation. Mulder, we're not getting anywhere." Frustration ebbs through her mind, and he sees it in her eyes.

"It's only a couple more days, Scully." She notes that, predictably, he's blaming himself. He probably thinks she blames him too.

"I know," she says, "and I don't mind, Mulder, really. It's just I can't remember the last time we landed a case with so few leads."

Now he definitely looks contrite, "I'm sor -"

She cuts him off. "There's no way you could have known. Besides," she says, trying to lighten things up, "we've still got Robert, and 'The Tortoiseshell Cat'."

"But even if we solve this, what are the chances we find those missing girls? I think their life force has been transported to another dimension, Scully. Or perhaps to the astral plane itself. My theory hasn't changed, and I don't think it will. And unless we start practicing witchcraft..." his meaning is clear, and although she doesn't believe what he's saying, she gets chills just thinking about it.

"I think you're jinxing us, Mulder," she says, trying to make a joke but sounding serious instead.

Mulder's eyebrows suddenly pull together in thought. "You know, Scully, even Kirk recognised that Sara was lonely."

"So?" she raises her eyebrows expectantly.

"So now we know she was not only longing for a man she couldn't have, she was also virtually friendless."

"I thought we decided the girls' loneliness has nothing to do with their case. That it's just a coincidence."

"Maybe we're wrong. Look, Scully, the girls all wanted a fulfilling relationship, and they were all bereft. You couldn't simply call it loneliness, especially not in an adolescent. It would have been a deep, painful ache."

"Do you have a theory to go with this?"

"Actually...there's something I've been thinking about. You remember what we were reading about the moon--the rising and falling energy levels?" She nods. "Well, I'm thinking that the girls' loneliness and despair could have been sending out negative energy. If they were practicing witchcraft by the light of a full moon, their energy could have disrupted the strong positive powers used in their magic...but I don't know how."

"Mulder, it doesn't make sense. If the girls were part of a coven, then why were they so lonely? They might have been an isolated group, like you said originally, but wouldn't they have relied on one another for support? They wouldn't have been as lonely as you say, much less lonely enough to emit some kind of negative energy field."

Mulder worries his lower lip, "Maybe there's another power involved. Some other energy force that influenced theirs." She sees her frustration reflected back at her in his eyes. "Scully, there has to be a way of stopping this -"

Just then, the electronic bell rings through the speakers, heralding a rustling of papers and opening of doors. Students pour into the corridor, none of them paying attention to Mulder and Scully, who stand with their backs to a wall. Noise levels rise to a cacophony, punctuated by raucous laughter and catcalls.

Scully takes Mulder by the wrist and pulls him into the classroom beside them. She feels like deadbolting the door behind her.

"So you're the FBI Agents," says a boy's voice. He's slouched on a desk in the front row. "I haven't done anything wrong."

"We're not accusing you of anything, Robert," assures Mulder. "We just want to ask you some questions."

Robert snorts, "Yeah right, that's what they always say in the movies." Sunlight is slanting through the window, coating his face, and Scully moves closer to see him better. She perches on the edge of the teacher's desk and takes a brief inventory. He's fair-haired, with big baby blues, and probably tall. Unfortunately, his posture--combined with his XXL tee-shirt and baggy pants--makes him look like a little boy dressed up in his father's clothes.

His tough-guy attitude, however, is reminiscent of John Wayne in an early Western. He meets Scully's eyes without flinching.

"Robert, we're not the bad guys," says Scully, taking him down a notch with a patronising tone. "We're simply making inquiries into Bianca Greenwood's disappearance, and we'd like you to tell us anything you know about her. Anything at all."

Robert drops his eyes, scuffing his foot against a desk leg. "Why are you asking me?" he mumbles. "I hardly knew her."

Scully sees she's cowed him, and she's not sure why. She knows she can give anyone a run for their money with her steely glare and iceberg voice, but she didn't think Robert would back down so easily. Maybe there's more to it than that, she thinks. Maybe he's ashamed.

"We have reason to believe that you bullied her, actually," says Mulder, sitting beside Scully and casually crossing his legs at the knee. "Mind if you tell us about it?"

"You got any proof?" Robert asks, still whittling away at the desk with his basketball shoe.

"We have evidence, yes," replies Scully. Definitely shame, she thinks, glancing up at Mulder. He nods--he's noticed too.

Robert looks up at them then, and she can't believe the fury of self-pity and guilt in his eyes. He's too young for that kind of pain. "I wanted to fit in," he confesses. "I didn't want to hurt her--I mean, I didn't hurt her. I laughed at her, sure, but it was just me and the guys, joking around. She knew that."

His voice trembles whenever he says 'she' or 'her', and he never mentions Bianca's name. Scully immediately senses what's going on, but wishes she hadn't. Robert's pain is too private, and too familiar.

"That's all we needed to know," she says, quickly and quietly. "Thanks for your time, Robert."


Like yesterday, the diner is bustling to the brim. But unlike yesterday, Mulder and Scully have arrived too late to get seats. They stand beside the door, waiting for a free table. A mixed smell of baking pies and black coffee clouds the air, and Scully's mouth fills with drool. But what's worse is the sound of people eating-- forking and spooning up steaming food, then chewing and swallowing, accompanied by sounds of pleasure.

"I know I've survived severe frostbite, Scully, but my body can't take any more of this," says Mulder, with a dazed, ravenous look in his eyes.

She's about to suggest they go pay a visit to the bakery down the street, when a table against the back wall catches her eye. "Hey Mulder, isn't that Jenkins and Curtis?"

"I can't see past all the food, Scully," Mulder whines, pouting like a little boy. "Let's go, okay?"

"I really think it's them," she says, peering past a gaggle of tea-sipping old biddies.

"Scully, did I ever ask you that hypothetical question about being stranded on a desert island with your best friend and nothing to eat? Well -"

"Mulder, it's them." She takes his hand and starts tugging him through the crowd, eyes focused on the Sheriff's khaki sleeve.

"What if they don't want us to sit with them?"

Scully shoots him a Look. "Mulder, they're friendly people and I want some pie. Don't you?" He's too hungry to do anything but nod emphatically.

However, when they arrive at their destination they stop short, surveying the scene. Curtis is tearing paper napkins into strips, but her eyes are glaring right at Sheriff Jenkins, who seems to be sweating a little. He's nervously tapping his fingers on the tabletop as he speaks.

"Scully, we've been cloned!" Mulder whispers, right into her ear. She ignores him, instead paying attention to Jenkins. The man seems to be going off on a major tangent.

"...you think I don't know what you're trying to prove, June? I know exactly what you'd like. And I want you to know, I respect your beliefs. There's not many who could say that. But honestly, June, you've got to listen to me on this one--you've got to look at this with common sense. The girls didn't vanish into thin air, because it's not possible. I'm tired of you calling me at two in the morning, yapping about spells and potions and the full moon. I mean, what exactly do you believe?"

"I think the girls have accidentally transported themselves out of this world."

Scully looks up at Mulder, watching his eyes widen.

Jenkins sighs, "It wouldn't make sense, even if it was possible. Why would the girls have kept attempting the same spell, over and over again, even as their numbers dwindled? June, I gotta confess, sometimes I think you're mad as a hatter."

"Like I said before, the girls were desperate to complete the spell. I don't know what it was..."

"An anti-loneliness charm?" Mulder asks, nearly breathless with excitement.

He's broken the tense connection between Curtis and Jenkins, and for an instant a deep silence descends. They turn to stare at him in bewilderment, as though he's severed a physical bond that was binding them together.

The Sheriff recovers first. "Agents!" he exclaims in a pleasant voice, although he's still coloured with anger. "It's a pleasure to meet you here."

Scully's not sure she wants in on the table now, but she certainly doesn't want to seem ridiculous. "Nice to see you too, Sheriff. We were wondering if we could share your table."

The Sheriff's expression brightens tenfold. "Why, it's Officer Curtis you should be asking. I was just leaving --I've got some work to do, back at the station." He pushes his chair back and stands up, sending Curtis an inscrutable, unpleasant glance as he picks his hat off the table.

He edges past Mulder and Scully, giving them a courteous smile whilst narrowly avoiding a plate-stacked waitress. "See you around, Agents." They return his smile before he's lost in the ocean of customers.

"You'll have to grab another chair," says Curtis, flatly. Her cheeks are flushed cherry blossom pink.

"That's okay," says Mulder, glancing sideways at his partner. "Scully can sit on my lap."

Scully's not sure whether to sink a stiletto heel onto his big toe, or to congratulate him for making Curtis crack a smile. Many of his jokes would sound like sexual harassment coming out of another man's mouth. But Mulder's well acquainted with a deadpan delivery.

Scully ends up quirking a smile at him too. "I'll find a chair," she says, moving off to search.

She ponders the irony of Mulder's innuendoes. He's been making them since the beginning of their partnership, and she's always firmly rebuked him. At the same time, she's never minded them--in fact, quite the opposite. Quite the opposite indeed.

When she returns to the table, Mulder and Curtis are deep in a wild discussion. She'd predicted as much.

"...your idea about loneliness never crossed my mind, Agent Mulder. I think you might have cracked this."

Mulder shakes his head, "The theory still has some flaws... for instance, as Scully pointed out, why was Sara's room the only one containing evidence of paganism?"

"I think that's where they stored all their supplies. The other three girls must have wanted to completely hide it from their parents. Or maybe they were in denial--or they'd been coerced." Curtis is flushed again, but this time in enthusiasm, not anger. "I think the question we should be asking is, are there more than four girls in the coven?"

"I'm still not sure if we're right about the coven," says Mulder. "I still think there might be another explanation."

Scully sits quietly, sipping a root beer and eating pie, unwilling to contribute. Mulder alone she can handle, but the ranting of theories concerning paganism--a belief system her religion completely rejects--doesn't seem worth tangling in. She's just starting to feel like a third wheel when Mulder turns to ask her opinion.

"I still think there's no need for your wild theories," she replies, calm and cool as a snowflake. "Just because the full moon is involved, and just because Sara is a pagan, it doesn't mean the girls were spirited away on a beam of magical energy. I'm afraid I have to agree with Sheriff Jenkins."

Scully gives Curtis an apologetic look, and the woman shrugs, her lips curving in a smile. "I'm sorry about earlier," she says. "I guess Jenkins and I get a bit carried away sometimes. We go way back."

"I know the feeling," says Scully, dryly.

"Yeah, I never thought Scully'd stick around this long," Mulder hits back, but he can't seem to help a fond smile.

They sit in a comfortable silence for a while, draining their coffee and polishing their plates. The caffeine hasn't kicked in yet, so Scully feels drowsy and full. When her head starts lolling towards Mulder's shoulder, she knows it's time to leave. She looks at Mulder, who nods his agreement.

"Well, it's been nice speaking with you," Scully says, as she and Mulder stand up.

Curtis follows suite and Mulder grins at her, "Feel free to call me anytime with those insane theories of yours. Don't waste them on Jenkins."

Curtis looks ready to echo his sentiment, but one glance at Scully makes her reconsider. "I think I'm all theoried out," she says instead. "Hey, where are you two staying?"

"Motel 6," Scully replies. "With the cockroaches."

"God, that awful dump. Why don't you stay at my place for the night? I've got plenty of room, and it's certainly not too much trouble."

Scully answers automatically--"I'm afraid we can't possibly acc-"

"Scully and I would never turn down such a generous offer...would we, Scully?"

"Great," says Curtis, handing Mulder her card. "Arrive whenever you want--the key's under the doormat."


'The Tortoiseshell Cat' is a deceptive store. At first, dazed and blinking from the sunlight outside, Scully is reminded of a tornado ground zero or a nuclear blast site. But as her eyes adjust, she begins to see that everything is arranged in a kind of organised chaos.

Along two walls run rickety black shelves, stacked with dusty jars, large polished stones, misshapen flasks and leather-bound books. The third wall is entirely covered with paintings and photographs, of all colours and sizes, depicting various mystical images and symbols. In a quick glance, Scully sees Stonehenge lit by a golden sunrise, two Hindu deities locked in an unspeakable act, and a faerie dance in a moonlit forest.

A long mahogany table sits several feet in front of the fourth wall, and doubles as the cashier's desk. It is stacked with books, knickknacks, candles and children's toys. Behind it, lining the wall, are glass cabinets displaying the jewelry of seemingly all cultures and tastes.

Even the ceiling and floor are put to good use--the ceiling hung with crystals, glass beads, dried herbs and chiles, glass teardrops, silk scarves, and wind chimes; the floor concealed by rugs and bamboo mats.

Scully and Mulder stand in the doorway for a few minutes, trying to take it all in. Scully feels like Ali Baba, the man who shouted "open sesame" and stepped out of the desert sun, into a cavern of treasure. At the same time she's reminded of fairytales about witches lurking in forbidden woods, luring children to their doorsteps. The store certainly smells like witches' brew-- a spicy mixture of beeswax, dried herbs, incense sticks and scented candles.

The store's owner, however, does not resemble one of these make-believe hags. She's a tall, graceful woman wearing school-marmish spectacles and an ordinary linen dress. Her only consent to witchdom, it seems, is a small pentacle charm dangling from a chain around her neck.

She's involved in writing something onto a creamy sheet of parchment, and doesn't look up when Mulder and Scully walk up to the counter. She only notices them when Mulder clears his throat.

"How may I help you?" she asks, smiling kindly.

When they take out their badges and introduce themselves, the woman is strangely unaffected, as though she's been expecting them. Scully gets the impression that very little could shock this woman--that she gracefully accepts whatever life brings her.

"I'm Clara Goldsmith," she says, folding up her parchment. Her voice reminds Scully of Melissa's-- flowing and musical, but with a wise edge to it. "What would you like to ask me about?"

"We're making enquiries about Sara Jones, and about the three other girls who recently went missing," says Scully. "Did they ever come to this store?"

Clara's smile fades, but her eyes remain calm. "I've already spoken with June about this."

"We'd like to hear your opinions first-hand," says Scully.

"Oh, that's fine," Clara assures them, "It's no bother for me; I just didn't want to waste your time. And in answer to your question--Sara was the only girl out of the missing four to visit my store."

"What did she buy?" Mulder asks.

Clara considers this, glancing around her store as if for clues. "Sara was a curious child," she says. "Curious in both senses of the word. She came in here often, about four times a week, although she didn't always buy something. When she did make a purchase, it was usually an ingredient for a love spell. Once she bought a pink velvet robe -" Clara points to a clothes rack, half-hidden behind the shelves in the corner. "Pink is an important colour in love spells, because it invites true romance. Sara bought many pink items--like candles, ribbons and beads. There are certain aromas that attract love, too, such as ylang-ylang, rose and patchouli, and Sara bought anything scented with these."

"Did she speak to you often?" asks Scully.

Clara's smile returns. "Very rarely. That's why I thought she was curious--a strange girl. I have many regular customers, and they've all become dear friends. All except Sara. She had an aura of distance around her, but also an aura of sorrow. It was as though she was very lonely, yet incapable of letting anyone in."

Mulder's eyes light up when they latch onto something in the room. "Ms. Goldsmith," he says, pointing to a row of books, "we found one of those in Sara's room. It had a moonstone attached to its spine."

"Ah," says Clara, "those can be used for anything. Notes on magic, spells, or simply as a journal. Each one has a gemstone on its spine."

She walks out from behind her desk and over to the books, gesturing for the agents to follow. She plucks one from its shelf and turns its spine to Mulder, displaying a small green stone. "Each of these books has a modern birthstone stuck to its spine," she explains. "Sara was born in the month of June, and so according to modern practices, her birthstone is a moonstone. This one represents an emerald, for the month of May."

Mulder nods, tongue-tied with disappointment. Scully remembers his excitement over the moonstone. She'd even shared it to a degree. Now, like every other lead they've had, the stone's been proven meaningless. Scully's not quite at her wits end, but she's getting there. On the one hand she's worried that they'll never find the missing girls. On the other, she's afraid the coming full moon will somehow steal away another girl. The worst of it is, she can't do anything about either concern.

Scully realises she must look flustered and tries to calm down, but she can't pull the wool over Clara's eyes. The woman casts Scully a sober look, but doesn't comment, as though sensing Scully's dislike of emotional discussion.

"June's told me a bit about the case," says Clara. "Nothing specific, mind you, but enough for me to know it must be difficult. It sounds like all you've caught are red herrings."

"That we have," Mulder replies. "Big, juicy ones, too."

Clara's expression softens into serenity. "Maybe you should stop looking for the answers," she says. "Maybe, if you wait long enough, they'll find you." She speaks these words as though she's stating a fact, not giving advice.

Scully frowns and raises her eyebrows, "Are you asking us to 'go with the flow'?"

"Something like that," Clara responds, grinning at Scully's terminology. "Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some work to finish before I close up shop. It's been a pleasure speaking with you."

"Thanks for your time, Ms. Goldsmith," Mulder says with a smile, as he turns to walk out the door.

Scully smiles too and moves to follow him, but stops when something presses against her palm. She looks down to see Clara pushing a pink candle into her hand.

"On the house," the woman whispers, dropping a sly wink. "Just in case."

Mortified, Scully's not sure how to respond--not with Mulder watching them from the doorway. She hopes he hasn't seen the candle, but she knows he will if she doesn't do something quickly.

"Thanks," she murmurs, swiftly tucking it into her deepest pocket. She dearly hopes the dry-cleaner will be able to get rid of its sickly-sweet smell. "Here's our card," she says in a louder tone, handing it to Clara. "Call Agent Mulder or myself if you think of anything else."

She tries not to bolt outside and barely succeeds. Mulder gives her a curious look that she takes no notice of.

"Blessed be!" calls Clara, as the door snicks shut behind them.


Digging through her suitcase, Scully finally finds a blue T-shirt that's perfect for the steamy weather. She's already tried taking a cold shower--she emerged feeling ready for anything, only to wilt again a few minutes later. Even though the sun set half an hour ago, the temperature seems to have risen, and the night is sultrier than the day.

Scully doesn't know how she'll sleep in the heat. She pictures herself a few hours from now, with bed sheets twisted around her ankles like clinging ivy and sweat dribbling into her eyes. Completely incapable of sleep.

And right now, she thinks wryly, I need sleep more than anything else. She's so drained and tired, she'd trade practically anything for a few decent hours of shuteye.

The case has been niggling at her constantly. It's even bugging her now, as she fixes her hair into a loose ponytail. Mulder's not the only one who gets obsessive about tough cases--Scully can be just as tenacious and thorough, although usually not by choice. Mulder actively slips into obsession, as though it's an old pair of jeans. Scully, however, becomes haunted by details of the case.

They keep running through her mind, over and over again. She feels like the words "change in energy flow" have been superglued to her brain. But she can't make head or tail of them, or of anything else for that matter.

The strangest thing is, Mulder's frustration with the case seems to have lessened while her's has grown. Maybe he's been influenced by Clara's advice, or maybe he just copes better with the heat. Either way, with her T-shirt already sticking to her back and her mind buzzing with impossible possibilities, Scully can't help a surge of resentment towards him. Especially when she walks out onto the porch and sees him chatting animatedly with Curtis.

Curtis' house is a massive weatherboard, built right in the heart of the forest. It's a somewhat decrepit building, swamped by glory vines and wysteria, and entirely surrounded by the sagging porch. Scully gingerly treads across worn wooden boards, making her way to the cluster of deck chairs where Mulder and Curtis are sitting.

As she nears them, Scully goes for a Zen Buddhist approach and tries to count her blessings. At least Mulder and I are safe and well, she thinks. At least we got out of that rattrap motel. At least Curtis is friendly and Mulder's having a good time for once.

She's just starting to feel better when she bangs her pinkie toe on a loose nail. "Damn it!" she mutters, pain shooting up her leg. So much for positive thought.

She wants to hobble back into the house and regain her composure, but Mulder catches sight of her before she can make a move. He grins and beckons her over, his eyes gleaming in the moonlight. Despite herself, warmth spreads through Scully's body, melting her irritation. She grins back and sinks into the chair beside his, as though she can't control her own movements.

"Hey Scully," he says, handing her a large, earthenware bowl. "Have some of these." She notices a bluish-purple stain around his lips, like a bruise.

She tilts the bowl towards the night sky, illuminating its contents. It's piled high with ripe blueberries, raspberries and blackberries, sweating their own juices. She hasn't seen so many fresh berries since the sixth grade, when she and her family went strawberry picking in midsummer. She recalls lush juice dribbling down her chin, and the feel of her siblings' sticky hands as they all tried to grab their share from the bucket.

Curtis smiles at her, "I picked them this afternoon."

"Thank you," Scully replies, slightly awed. She wants to devour the whole lot in dripping, glutinous handfuls, but begins to pick at them daintily instead. It seems there's always a wide gulf between what she wants to do and what she actually does.

Mulder and Curtis are talking about Wicca, and Scully isn't surprised to learn that Curtis is a practitioner. Although Scully's never considered paganism to be a valid religion, she finds herself listening to Curtis. The woman speaks of her twenty years as a Wiccan with pure warmth, her voice brimming with joy. After a while, Scully begins to ask questions, hoping she doesn't sound too ignorant. Curtis answers them all without taking offence, even when their discussion becomes more a theological debate.

As Scully munches on tart, sweet berries and questions pagan philosophy, she gradually realises that Mulder is watching her. He's not doing it directly, of course, although he's sneaking glances now and then. Melissa once told her that the only way to see a fairy is to watch it from the corner of your eye, and that's what Mulder's doing now. Gazing at her from the side, as though if he looks straight at her she'll disappear.

Maybe it's her tight T-shirt, drawing his attention to her figure. Periwinkle blue, she remembers reading on its tag. She bought it thinking of him--wondering if he'd like it on her. Maybe he does.

She drops out of the conversation, suddenly unable to form words. An intense feeling washes over her and settles in her gut.

Although it seems impossible, the idea that Mulder is in love with her strikes her from time to time. Occasionally Mulder will say something or do something, and she'll wonder--what if?

Until her rationality takes control and the feeling passes, of course. Logic sweeps her emotions under the rug, and soon everything has returned to the status quo.

Mulder is speaking to Curtis now, asking about the importance of the summer solstice, and Scully finds herself watching him in the same way he's been watching her. She finishes the berries but their tang remains in her mouth, stimulating her senses. Every inch of her skin tingles in the humid night air. She can feel individual beads of sweat glide down her neck and pool in the runnel beneath her nose.

Mulder and Curtis' conversation is a steady murmur in her ears, like the flow of a river. It drowns out all other sound. She listens especially to Mulder's deep, smooth tones. His voice comforts her like nothing else.

Drowsy, she lolls in her chair and half-closes her eyes. She doesn't notice when Mulder abruptly stops speaking, or when he leans towards her.

But she does notice his vice-like grip on her wrist. "Hey!" She opens her eyes, intending to glare at him. "What's going on, Mulder?"

He's staring at her so intently, she's unable to do anything but gawk back at him. She recognises his look almost immediately. It's been about a year since she's seen him like this. His eyes are desolate and his mouth is pulled tight. Every second his face grows a shade paler.

"Scully..." he croaks, kneeling in front of her. He isn't looking into her eyes. He's looking below them, at her nose.

His grip tightens and shocks her into action. She pulls away from his touch and her wrist throbs. "Mulder," she says, reaching up to touch the liquid beneath her nose. Her voice trembles slightly. "Mulder, is my nose bleeding?"

He closes his eyes and slowly nods his head. Oh God.

Not again, Scully thinks, numbly. Please not again.

Mulder opens his eyes, watching her as she looks down at her blood-streaked fingers. There's something obscene about the dark red that's smudged into her white skin. She can't believe her own body has done this to her. Has betrayed her like this. She can smell her blood's salty, rusty-iron scent, and when she licks her lips and tastes it, she feels like she might be sick.

"Scully, this can't be happening," says Mulder. She can sense he's on the verge of panic.

A cold, hard logic takes over her mind. It's the same kind of logic she experienced a year ago, under similar circumstances. The same need to blot out any and all emotion as though it doesn't exist.

"It isn't happening, Mulder. I'm fine. It's just the heat."

Mulder's eyes lose their devastation, his expression hardening into anger. "We're going to a hospital to get it checked out. Right now." He grabs her hand and stands, yanking her to her feet. "Right now, Scully."

Now it's her turn for anger. "Don't be ridiculous, Mulder," she says coolly, flicking away his hand. "When and if I get this checked out, I will go myself. I'll take care of it myself." She doesn't care if she sounds shrill--she needs to handle this on her own. If pushing him away is going to do the trick, then so be it.

"You can't ignore this, Scully." He crowds into her personal space. "You can't pretend nothing happened. I'm not going to let you do that."

Her anger rises into fury. "I'm not sick, Mulder! Everyone gets the occasional nosebleed. You don't have to mother me. I'm not going to take up valuable space at the ER just to satisfy you."

She turns on her heel and stalks off, heading for the front door. More than anything, she wants to curl up in bed and bawl her eyes out, and not have to worry about breaking down in front of Mulder. And Curtis, for that matter, who probably thinks they're both insane by now.

"You think this is about me, Scully?" Mulder shouts after her. His voice is rough and she can tell he's trying not to cry. "This isn't about my satisfaction. This is about your life, Scully -"

She steps into the house and slams the door, just as hot tears begin to flow down her face.


WEDNESDAY

It's two in the morning when Scully realises she has to come to grips with reality.

There's no way she's going to be sleeping tonight. For one thing, her room is a stifling hellhole. For another, she's been obsessing about her nosebleed and subsequent fight with Mulder for the past few hours, all the while trying to forget random facts from the case that keep popping into her mind. To top it all off she's got a cramp in her left ankle.

She's tried counting sheep, tried drifting away to the monotonous sound of crickets chirping in the forest outside, tried pacing around her room, and tried to avoid the heat by stripping naked and ditching her pillow. But all to no avail.

Right now she's lying on her stomach, carrying out an internal monologue fragility of her and Mulder's relationship.

"...both of us are the problem," she thinks, face pressed into her mattress, "all the unresolved issues between us...our inability to agree...and he wants to control my whole life...but his intentions are good..." Her mind goes on like this for about half and hour more, without reaching any conclusions.

Then she starts craving a glass of milk.

The idea of running into Mulder at two thirty in the morning seems remote, at least to her exhausted mind. Besides, another argument would be a small price to pay for the sweet, ice-cold liquid sliding down her throat. As she pulls on a floppy T-shirt and boxer shorts, Mulder's habitual insomnia doesn't even cross her mind.

"Too hot," she murmurs, stumbling out into the darkened corridor.

Curtis gave them a tour of the sprawling house when they arrived, but in Scully's current state she can't tell left from right, let alone where the kitchen is. First she stumbles into the bathroom, where she splashes her face with cold water. Then through the dining room, somehow navigating around chairs in the dark. When she reaches the living room she doesn't notice the flickering light beneath the door--until it's too late and she's opened it.

Mulder's sitting on the sofa, watching a 'Twilight Zone' re-run. He looks up at her as soon as she walks in the room, and when their eyes meet she knows there's no escape. Although surprisingly, he doesn't look like he has the thirst for a fight.

"Hey Scully," he says, picking up the remote and switching off the TV. He looks as tired as she feels, with his mussed hair, sweat-shiny face and drooping eyelids. "Don't just stand there--come sit down." His voice wavers from tone to tone. "C'mere, Scully, I wanna talk to you."

She walks over and plops down beside him, and he loops an arm around her shoulders. In such close quarters she can smell his rich, earthy scent, but she's too tired to be either aroused or repulsed by it.

"Hey Mulder," she says, leaning her head against his side and stifling a yawn.

They sit for a while in a silence that should be awkward but somehow isn't. Mulder's fingers stroke up her arm and tangle in her damp hair, while she moves to press her palm over his heart.

Scully reflects on the fact of their friendship. Even though she considers him the love of her life, Mulder is first and foremost her best friend. Whatever happens between them and however many problems they have, this will always be their one certainty. Their one truth.

"I was out of line, earlier," Mulder mumbles, lips brushing her hair. "But I can't apologise, Scully. I was scared and I still am." He's not being particularly articulate, but his raw emotions say more than words ever could. "I know your nosebleed was probably caused by the heat, but what if it wasn't?"

"You know it was," she says, her voice gentle. "Mulder...I'm cured. You cured me."

"I thought you thought it was a miracle."

She smiles indulgently, into his shirt. "Yes. You are a miracle, Mulder."

For a second he stills, his heartbeat speeding up beneath her hand.

"So are you, Scully," he whispers, shifting to pull her closer. He presses a clumsy kiss to her forehead, then another to the side of her nose. "If you only knew a fraction of how much you mean to me, Scully. If you only knew..." He strokes his thumb along her jaw and kisses her temple.

His caresses lull her into even greater drowsiness. She's too tired for whatever he's trying to say. A revelation, maybe? A part of her wants to sigh with relief and another part wants to rejoice. But she doesn't know what she's celebrating.

"Tell me tomorrow," she murmurs, closing her eyes. "I don't know what you're saying, Mulder...this isn't a good time..." she yawns deeply and nuzzles into his embrace.

Mulder watches her as she falls asleep, sifting her hair through his gentle fingers.


Darkness closes in around Scully. All she knows is that Mulder's calling her name, over and over. He sounds like he needs her.

"Mulder, what's happening? Are you okay?"

She looks around, trying to find him, but all she can see is the thick, pitiless gloom.

"I don't know where you are!" she yells, cupping her hands around her mouth to amplify the sound. "Mulder, tell me where you are! Talk to me!"

That's when she sees the light, far off in the distance. A bright speck, warm and sharp--so different from the darkness. Instinctively, she knows it's Mulder. Somehow, he's become a beacon, shining for her in the dark.

She has to get to him.

He is radiant.


The kitchen door creaks closed, waking Mulder. He sits up and glances around with sleep-glazed eyes, at first wondering where he is. The curtains are glowing with moonlight, illuminating his surroundings, and it doesn't take him long to figure it out.

He remembers his conversation with Scully and starts wondering why he's alone. Wasn't Scully just here? Didn't she just fall asleep in his arms? It feels like only a few seconds have passed since her soft hair was tickling his jaw and her breathing was soothing him into slumber.

Mulder would put it down to a vivid dream, except for the fact he can still smell her. A heady combination of her shampoo, soap and sweat lingers in the air around him. He's sure she was with him only moments ago.

"Scully?" he calls, standing and glancing into the dining room. The house seems unbearably dark and silent, although he knows Curtis is asleep in her room and Scully is probably asleep in hers.

She must have woken up and decided to go back to bed. It's not like she'd want to share the sofa with him, anyway. He currently stinks like old, dog-chewed sneakers, and besides, it's too hot to be cuddling with anyone.

Although he certainly hadn't minded.

Mulder debates over whether to lie back down on the sofa or go check on Scully. The latter would be for purely selfish reasons, of course. He envisions her draped across her bed, her face smoothed in sleep and dappled by moonlight. Her lips slightly parted as she breathes, deep and even. He could spend the rest of the night watching her breathe.

His decision is easy. He moves swiftly and silently through the shadowy house, carefully avoiding furniture and throw rugs. When he reaches her door he's afraid to walk in, picturing her sitting on the edge of the bed, glaring at him. But he can't stop thinking about the fine bones of her ankles, her petal-soft eyelashes, her hair in curls across the pillow, and the steady rise and fall of her chest. So he walks into the room.

She isn't there.

"Scully?" he whispers, moving in further and looking around. There's a desk, some shelves, a chest of drawers and a chair that are all grey in the light. Nothing more.

He backtracks, softly calling her name. By the time he reaches the kitchen, he's starting to suspect she's up and left. Possibly waking up in his arms was too traumatic an experience for her to handle.

After checking the microwave clock--3:03 a.m.-- he rethinks his paranoia. Scully's probably gone outside to get some air, that's all. She's probably settled on the porch, gazing out into the moonlit forest and deep in thought.

Company is almost certainly the last thing she needs, but he can't help himself. He steps out the kitchen door and slowly shuts it, then starts walking quietly across the rickety boards. He peers into the night, pausing to admire the forest's beauty. Every leaf, it seems, is glinting in the brilliant light.

That's when something catches his eye. A flash of white, fifty yards or so down the road that winds past Curtis's house. The white shape disappears behind a black clump of trees before he can make out what it is. When it reappears he sees it's slowly moving forward. It seems to be gliding along, graceful and blurred, like a spectre.

Wait...wasn't Scully wearing a white T-shirt?

"What the...?" he mutters, forgetting his bare feet as he runs down the porch steps. He winces when he reaches the gravel drive, picking his way across the sharp grey stones. He's not going to risk racing back to grab his sneakers, because Scully could be long gone by then.

What the hell is she thinking, running off in the middle of the night? Surely waking up beside him didn't upset her that much. "Scully?" he calls after her, stage whispering because he doesn't want to rouse Curtis. The situation is bad enough without the added embarrassment of someone finding them out here.

As Mulder draws closer he sees it's definitely her. Her whole body is dyed silver by the moonlight, except for her luminous T-shirt. She's moving at such a leisurely pace that she's hardly making any progress. He wonders if she wants to get away from him or just to really piss him off.

"Hey, Scully!" he calls, louder now. She doesn't turn around.

When he gets right up next to her, his features tight with anger, he finally realises something's wrong. There's something off about the whole situation, but he can't quite put his finger on it. Scully stares stonily ahead, still walking forward, acting as though he isn't beside her. Her angelic face gleams like a pearl, accentuating the softness of her skin. But her eyes are shadowed and sharp, and her mouth is a rigid line.

"Scully?" he murmurs, squeezing her shoulder but getting no reaction. He finally catches on to what's happening. "You're sleepwalking, aren't you Scully?"

His question is answered perfectly when she doesn't respond. He's not sure whether to be relieved she's not mad at him or worried about her present state. Why would Scully suddenly start sleepwalking, tonight of all nights? As far as he knows, she's never demonstrated somnambulistic tendencies in the past. Plus, she seems to be going somewhere definite, judging by her careful steps along the road.

When he glances up at the full moon, it all clicks into place.

For some reason, Scully has been selected to join the ranks of the four missing girls. By who--or what--he has no idea. All he knows is that if he hadn't come outside to check on her, Scully would have vanished forever.

Mulder wraps his fingers around her small, warm hand. He's going to follow her, wherever she leads. And he's not going to let go.


From Curtis's porch the forest looked like a fairyland, but beneath the canopy it's more like a Grimm's fairytale. Ten minutes ago, Scully turned off the road into the trees, and since then their travels have been decidedly less pleasant. Mulder feels like Hansel, unwittingly tiptoeing towards the gingerbread house with Gretel by his side. The forest around them, peaceful and inviting during the day, has become a tangled, spooky labyrinth by night.

More than once Mulder's been given a fright by curled blackberry brambles clinging to his ankles or leaves tickling his forehead. His free hand is constantly shoving vegetation out of their path. He does his best to protect them both from overhanging branches and sharp twigs, but isn't always successful. Scully's already got an angry red scratch down one cheek.

All the while, Mulder fears poison ivy welts and swollen insect bites. When Scully walks them through a spider web, Mulder has to brush away the sticky threads and wriggling arachnid, shuddering with distaste. Momentarily he's glad Scully isn't awake to see his girly behaviour, although otherwise his need for her company grows with every step. He craves her rationalism and wisdom, the wake-up call to reality she always gives him, and her quick wit. Her blank eyes unnerve him more than anything else.

Fortunately, he thinks, the ordeal will be over soon. The closer they get to their destination, the quicker Scully walks. Forty-odd minutes since they left Curtis's house and she's practically running; sliding and tripping across the humus of the forest floor. But despite Scully's quickening pace, he's starting to wonder if they'll finish their journey before dawn.

That is, until he sees the light.

It's definitely not the silver light of the moon, which has been illuminating their way so far. No, this new light is a warm, sunset orange haze that seems concentrated in one area, almost like a dome. The colour darkens and heats as they get closer, and a fresh, citrus scent fills the air. Mulder is reminded of eating tangerine flesh, with its tangy sweetness and dribbling juice.

Orange seems a more appropriate colour for the balmy night than silver moonlight. It's soft and heavy, just like the heat, and Mulder finds it hard to distinguish between the two. He starts to feel the orange light's irresistible pull--its strange hypnotic qualities. For a second he almost falls into a lull, but recovers quickly, squeezing Scully's limp hand.

Mulder realises that around them, the forest is completely silent and still, like a cardboard backdrop. He feels as though he's looking at it through tinted glasses. The colour deepens and reddens, and then suddenly...

Suddenly it's familiar. Deja vu washes over him, gradually replaced by the clarity of knowledge.

"The field of tiger lilies..." he mutters, tightening his hold on Scully's hand. "I should have known...should have trusted my instincts."

He wants to shake Scully awake right away, but there's no room for mistakes--not where the missing girls are concerned. Mulder keeps walking with her, waiting until he can see the clearing through the trees. The concentration of light grows so intense it's almost blinding, but Mulder can't risk shielding his eyes. He tries not to think of retinal damage as he looks around, searching for the clearing. Finally he sees it--long grass dotted with sharp-petalled flower heads--and that's when he turns to Scully, gripping her shoulders and trying to shake her into consciousness.

Only she doesn't wake up. "Scully!" he yells, his lips grazing the shell of her ear. His voice seems amplified in the deathly silence, but she doesn't react. He clamps down harder, knowing he'll bruise her but somehow managing not to care.

"Scully, wake up! The girls are in the field-- we have to find them!"

Now she's struggling with him, clawing and twisting. She's even gnashing her teeth and he doesn't doubt she'd bite him if she could. Her eyes lose their passivity, becoming infused with rage until they glow with a rabid hostility. But there's still a dullness to them, letting him know she hasn't awoken.

"Let me go!" she screams, her voice sounding foreign and harsh, almost a growl. "I have to get to him, have to see him..." Her eyes fix on a point past Mulder's shoulder, and he realises with growing horror that she's gazing straight into the light.

It's more than a light, he realises. It's an entity of some kind.

And Scully's calling to it. "Mulder! Mulder, help me! He won't let me get to you."

She's calling to it and she's using his name?

In shock, his hands loosen slightly on her shoulders. At the same time, she shoves both of her palms against his chest.

"Get away," she hisses, as he flies backwards. His shock has increased tenfold by the time he smacks into the ground. Where did she get the strength to hurl all six-feet of him through the air?

Mulder lies on the ground, trying to catch his breath while he watches her stride towards the clearing. He sees that her body is lit from within--that her skin is radiating the orange light.

Scully's been infected by this entity, whatever it is, and he let go of her hand. He let her go.

"Scully, no!" He gets to his feet and runs after her, stopping her just at the tree line. "No," he says, knuckles white where he grips her upper-arms.

He tries to meet her eyes but she's not looking at him. All her concentration is focused on the entity behind him. The light has become so thick now--it's no longer warm and comforting. It's a terrible, sickly, boiling light.

Yet even now Mulder can feel its seductive tug. Scully is struggling in his arms again, jabbering at him to let her go, and his eyes are stinging from the brightness. But there's a force wrenching at his heart, compelling him to turn around and face the entity.

He rests his forehead against Scully's, whispering and murmuring a steady stream of words, almost a prayer--"Please no, Scully, stop, don't keep doing this, stop for me, don't do this Scully..." on and on, until he can stand it no longer.

He has to turn around, and when he does, he's frozen in disbelief. This has to be the strangest thing he's ever seen, bar none.

Standing right in front of him is...himself. It's his own body, juxtaposed in the centre of all the light, energy and heat.

At first he thinks he's looking into some kind of mirror. But then he sees it's just a version of him--a replica. Its emotionless eyes are filled with scalding power.

Mulder hears his own voice coming from the entity, faint and soothing. "Scully," it says, "Scully, that man is trying to stop you. I'll help you. You just let me give you what you need, and then you can do it. You can kill him. It's the only way he'll let you reach me."

Scully's voice sounds from behind him. "Anything, Mulder," she whispers. "I love you. I'd do anything for you."

She's clearly in a trance, Mulder thinks. She doesn't know what the hell she's saying.

But her words have an effect on him that he doesn't try to ignore. They awaken him from the magic-induced stupor he's been bogged in since he saw the entity, and now he's got a chance to fight.

He knows he's going to have to think fast, but that's never been a problem before.

He keeps himself alert by imagining that Scully's presence behind him is a deep, bright warmth, and he starts concentrating on the way she's filled the empty places in him. Whenever he's felt broken or jaded, she's effortlessly restored him, and he knows he's done the same for her.

And yet Scully's been summoned here for a reason. She has something in common with the missing girls, and all he can think is that she's lonely. Although they share a bond stronger than any he's ever known, there's still something missing from their relationship.

It's the only explanation he can come up with and it also provides the only solution. There's one way to end her loneliness. One way to give her what she needs from him and what he's needed from her for a long time.

"You're not alone, Scully," he says softly, tearing his eyes from his imitator.

He turns around to see her pulsing with light, her eyes dark and violent, but he pulls her towards him before she can act, wrapping her in his arms and crushing her mouth beneath his.

For a few seconds she freezes, completely unresponsive to his stroking tongue and the rough press of his lips. He's terrified it isn't going to work--that she's going to burn him to charcoal in her arms.

But then she's kissing him back and murmuring against him, reaching up to lock her hands around his neck. She pulls him closer, slowly licking his lips and the inside of his mouth. Drunk on her salty sweet taste and scent, Mulder thinks this is the most exquisite thing that's ever happened to him.

Around them, unnoticed, a sharp wind swirls through the field as the ground quakes and the light flashes, and screams and moans of every pitch echo shrilly through the air.

All of this is drowned out by a thunderous, tearing sound, the air shimmering and boiling for a moment, molecules glittering like stars. A tension that's been building is suddenly released, bright sparks shoot out in all directions. Directly overhead, the sky gleams golden with energy for an instant, then quickly dims and fades.

The gaudy orange light finally flickers out, leaving nothing but the moon's silver. At the same time, all of the ear-splitting noise ceases. The field of lilies becomes shadowy and quiet, as it would be under normal circumstances.

Mulder takes his mouth from Scully's just as she goes limp in his arms. He looks around at the field and then down at her, panting and comprehending nothing. His mind traces a seemingly random sequence of events: There was a light and they were kissing and there was some kind of noise...and now Scully's passed out in his arms.

"Oh shit." He lowers her onto the grass, panicking until he finds a strong pulse in her wrist. He presses a kiss to it, tasting her warm skin, feeling secure in the knowledge that she only fainted.

He never thought he'd see Scully--FBI Agent, dedicated stoic and control freak extraordinaire--swoon in his arms like a storybook princess. He knows she'll kick his ass when she wakes up and realises what happened, and the thought makes him weak with relief. Thank God she's okay.

Careful not to manhandle her, he scoops her up into his arms and tries to balance her weight, making her as comfortable as possible. He brushes his lips across her forehead before he starts moving, staring down at her smoothed features for a moment and memorising the way she looks in sleep.

Sometimes, like now, his love for her is aching and absolute.


He's carrying Scully out of the field when his foot connects with something in the grass. Something soft and solid, like an over-stuffed cushion. Or a child's body.

Mulder looks down to see Bianca Greenwood sprawled at his feet, her face bathed in moonlight.

Lowering Scully to the ground again, he glances around and sights three other body-shaped dark patches, all in the same area. The four missing girls have been returned. But are they still alive?

With a lump in his throat, Mulder crouches beside Bianca and tentatively takes her pulse. He needn't have bothered--her eyes snapping open with the first touch of his fingers to her bare skin. He squeezes his eyes shut and buries his face in his hands, relieved beyond measure.

"Where am I?" Bianca asks.


Surrounded by beeping metal equipment and the reek of disinfectant, Mulder is reminded of why he hates hospital rooms. With their blank walls and sealed windows, they give him a faint, unsettled feeling of
claustrophobia.

He finds it hard to concentrate on the
interview, but knows it has to be completed right now, before exact details can blur around the edges.

"Tell me more about how you felt. Were you in pain?" Mulder asks, directing a neutral, calming look at his interviewee.

Sara Jones is sitting up on the bed, her cheeks flushed with health and her nose ring sparkling in the fluorescent light. Her eyes seem too old for her young face, with its firm curves and smattering of pimples. This isn't really surprising, given she's been missing for months in a place outside human understanding.

Mulder waits patiently for her to respond. She's a private person who's obviously ill at ease with his questions, but she's doing her best to answer truthfully.

She lowers her eyes, her hands fidgeting with the sheets. "It was too quick to hurt," she says finally, her voice husky with disuse. Amazingly, it's the only part of her that's changed, in all the time she's been gone. "It was like a needle prick, you know? An injection. And it was like a dream too. I went to bed and fell asleep, and then I heard him calling me."

This is new. "Who was calling you, Sara?" he asks gently, watching a rosy blush spread up her neck and over her face.

"Um..." she bites her lip, shifting
uncomfortably. "I don't really want to say. He's a teacher at my school, and I kind of ...like him."

Mulder decides not to press any further, afraid she's going to balk. He jots down 'Fell asleep in bed as usual. Heard Kirk calling her' in his notebook, then asks, "So, what happened after you heard this man calling you?"

"I walked towards him," she whispers. "He seemed very far away. There was a bright, golden light. Actually..." her brow wrinkles in thought "...it was almost orange.
Halloweeny. But I told you about this
already, didn't I?" She lifts her eyes to meet his again.

"Yes, we've been though that," he replies, giving her a kind smile. "Is there anything else you remember?"

"Just waking up in the field last night." She smiles shyly back at him. "Can I see my parents now?"

"There's just one more thing," he says, his eyes growing solemn. "Sara, I know you're involved in paganism. I was wondering--before Bianca disappeared, did you ever do a spell in the clearing where we found you?"

She blushes again, turning to gaze out the window. "Yeah, I did do a spell there one day."

"What kind of spell?"

"A love spell. Something I wrote myself."

"Did you notice anything unusual, when you did the spell?" He leans forward slightly, anticipating her answer.

"Nope," she says, her voice flat. "Nothing happened, just like always. But then again, I didn't wait very long. I had to get to school." Then she sucks in a breath, suddenly making sense of what he's getting at. She turns back to him, her eyes darkened with terrible guilt. Her mouth trembles slightly. "I did it, didn't I? I caused the disappearances. I made those families suffer. All because of my stupid crush." Her voice goes sharp with
self-recrimination.

"There's no proof either way," Mulder responds, his voice utterly sincere. "And even if there was--even if you were responsible, or partly responsible--there's no way you could have known."

"Oh, you mean like manslaughter?" Sara rolls her eyes at him, just as they start leaking tears. "Come on, Agent Mulder--I was messing with forces beyond my control. I should have taken precautions." She lowers her voice, "The thing is, I didn't believe in the spells until now. I wasn't careful with them at all; I just did as many as I could. I didn't think about consequences...well, except for getting what I wanted."

She pauses, closing her eyes and dragging a hand through her hair.

"I guess I love him too much," she whispers.


Scully opens her eyes, remnants of her dream still loitering in her head.

*An orange light, like candle in a jack-o'-lantern, but brighter and more inviting. Mulder's voice calling her, but something standing in her way, trying to stop her from reaching him. Hot breath on her lips. Comparing the taste of Mulder's mouth to bitter mocha*

As her vision focuses, these mental images melt and fade into the back of her mind.

The daisy is the first thing she sees. Pale pink petals radiating from a round, golden centre, completely perfect and whole. Her mind admires its precision and symmetry, but her heart worships its delicate softness. Touching petals is unlike touching anything else--except maybe butterfly wings--and there's something magical and irresistible about it. Her hand moves on its own volition, fingertips grazing across the starched linen sheets.

Sheets?

"Hey Scully," says Mulder's voice. Is the daisy speaking? A talking daisy wouldn't be the weirdest thing she's ever witnessed.

But when she turns her head she sees Mulder, peering at her from above, as though she's a specimen. Then she notices the cracked white wall behind him and the fake potted plant on a bedside table. Ah, they're stuck in another hospital room, and it's her turn to be the invalid. How the hell did she end up here?

Mulder's sitting in a chair, right up next to the bed, the daisy cradled in his lap. "How're you feeling?" he asks, brushing wayward hair out of her eyes.

"What happened?" she croaks, not wanting to irk him with an 'I'm fine' but not wanting to tell the truth, either. Her limbs feel like concrete blocks, her throat itches, and she wants to be in another body.

He lets it rest. "We accidentally solved the case, Scully. Congratulations." Holding up the daisy, he offers her a weak smile. "I brought this for you."

A pink daisy, she thinks. Now why is that important?

"You fainted," he continues, "so that's why we're here."

"I what?"

"You fainted..." he trails off at her incredulous expression "...um, anyway, that was the bad news. There's good news too." His smile widens into a broad grin. "The girls are back, Scully. Safe and sound. It's like they've been frozen in time."

Her incredulity reaches new heights. "What?"

"They were returned--I don't know how."

Scully starts struggling to sit up, but can't quite get her muscles to work. He gently presses a hand to her shoulder and she settles down, trying not to pout.

She can't believe it. One moment she's asleep on Mulder's shoulder, too tired to worry about the case anymore. The next, the case is solved with no loose ends and she's somehow wound up in a hospital bed, unable to move. All she has to link these two events is a half-remembered dream, which she definitely shouldn't be dwelling on at the moment. Thoughts of Mulder's mouth always lead her sanity down a rocky road.

She focuses on annoyance instead of lust. Mulder's the only one who knows what's happened to her, and so far he hasn't done a very good job filling her in. He's taking things slowly, probably out of concern for her mental wellbeing. Of course, this just makes her feel like he's underestimating her, and it pisses her off to no end.

"It's okay, Scully," he says, trying to placate her. She hates it when he does that. "The girls are fine--mentally and physically. They've been checked out with every medical test imaginable and nothing came up. Oh, and I've already interviewed them." His last sentence is spoken almost as an afterthought --deliberately, she thinks.

Her mouth tightens in annoyance. "You could have woken me up."

"I wanted to let you rest," he says, his voice serious. "Look, Scully, don't start in on me -" she raises her eyebrows "- until you've heard the whole lurid, uncut version of what transpired early this morning. Because if you've been shaken by the weird stuff we've seen before...well, this is going to knock you ass over teakettle. Believe me."

She nods, curiosity overcoming her irritation at him, and for the next ten minutes she listens as he recounts the tale. She's torn between believing him on trust and dismissing it all as a shared hallucinated of some kind. Maybe they were both sleepwalking on the same night--a highly unlikely coincidence. Maybe Curtis drugged them and tricked Mulder into believing this insanity. Or maybe Mulder's just insane.

Unfortunately, her rationalizations don't explain the disappearance of the girls, or their return.

Mulder is up to the part where "the entity" is instructing her to kill him, when he suddenly freezes, his eyes shifting to avoid hers.

"Um...Scully, this is very important. Do you remember anything about what happened? Because the girls all told me they had...dreams."

"What kind of dreams?" Her own dream comes back in a series of vivid, disjointed pictures, and she hopes it isn't the kind of dream he's asking about.

He stares down at the daisy as though it's the most fascinating thing he's ever seen. "In the dreams, the girls all witnessed the orange light I described to you. Also, each girl heard a man calling her name and telling her to come to him. In Bianca's case it was Robert Bradbury and in Sara's it was Samuel Kirk. Hannah and Jen both heard famous rock stars whom they...admire."

*There's an orange light. Mulder is calling her, far off in the distance. There's so much darkness and she's alone, wanting to find him. She's walking towards him and shouting out to him and struggling against something. And then...then she's kissing him...*

"Scully?"

Knowledge hits her deep in the gut.

This case has seen her unravelling. She's the same as the girls in one respect--alone and pining for a man she loves--and Mulder understands this. He knows how she feels about him. After years of hiding this from him, deeper than any other unwanted emotion, Scully isn't sure how to function now that he knows. She feels obscenely exposed to him. Throughout the years he's uncovered something of all her mysteries, except this one. Until now.

She's so numb she doesn't think she can move. But she has to answer him somehow.

"I had the same dream as the girls."

She tries to say more but finds she's unable to elaborate. It doesn't matter anyway--his mind is capable of fitting this final piece into the puzzle. This final proof of her secret.

Mulder's still not meeting her eyes, and she thinks he's trying not to hurt her with rejection. His next words seem to settle this. "I'm not sure you want to hear my theory, Scully. Or the rest of what happened."

She's forced to ignore her personal feelings, the case taking precedence.

"I'm always willing to hear the truth,
Mulder," she says, somehow keeping a tremor out of her voice. "Whatever it is." She wishes there wasn't a double meaning to her words, and hopes he doesn't see it.

Mulder clears his throat, glancing around nervously. She's never seen him so hesitant with a theory. When he begins, he actually stutters a little. "A-as we established, each girl was lonely, and it turns out that each was fixated on one man. I think the entity--whatever it is--assumed the shapes and voices of these men to lure the girls while they were sleeping. I remember Moira Ravenwaves's site saying that not only do energy levels reach their peak during a full moon, there is also an easier transferral of energy from one source to another at this time. So because of the former, the entity was able to send out feelers to the girls, and because of the latter it was able to reel their energy in. I've spoken to Clara about this and she agrees."

"Do you think it was malevolent?"

"Not by paganism's standards. Pagans don't believe in good or evil--they believe that every creature is natural and will behave in its natural way. In this case, I have to agree. The entity was simply trying to survive. It took the girls for the same reason a cheetah stalks a gazelle. We can only guess at its motivations, but personally, I think it was feeding on their extreme feelings of despair and loneliness. It's a dog eat dog world, Scully."

Scully resists raising an amused eyebrow. He wouldn't notice it, anyway. His eyes are currently fixed on his shirt cuff. "Other than the fact I find it hard to accept any of this," she says, "there are two things I don't understand at all. The first is--how did the entity come into existence?"

"Sara told me she did a love spell in the field of tiger lilies, sometime before the first disappearance, and this could have either created or awakened the entity. The entity itself may have been some kind of force from the astral plane, but maybe it was just an elemental wood spirit. Either way, it's gone now--destroyed."

"That's the second thing I wanted to ask you, Mulder. How was the entity destroyed, exactly?"

Mulder literally squirms, and Scully can see he's itching to race out the door right about now. She can't say she blames him. Here they are, sitting in a bleak hospital room--Agent Scully filled with unrequited love and Agent Mulder wishing he'd never met her. What a wonderful, healthy relationship they have, she thinks bitterly.

"You say you want the truth, Scully, but I just can't--I don't know how to tell you this, since you obviously don't remember." He clasps his hands and rubs his thumbs together. "Scully, just listen to me. Don't say anything until I've finished explaining. You see -" he sucks in a breath "- I kissed you -"

That was the last thing she'd expected to hear. "You what?"

*Her lips plied open by his tongue, at first she doesn't know how to respond. There's a perfect amount of passion--he isn't too rough and he isn't too gentle. She gives herself over to the sensations...*

"I kissed you," he says softly, gazing at the bedpost. "It was the only thing I could do. I had to think quickly and I just...kissed you. The entity wanted to take you because you were lonely, so by kissing you and ending your loneliness I disrupted its energy flow." He closes his eyes for a moment, gathering strength. "I'm sorry, Scully. I went by my instincts and didn't consider other options. Maybe I could have done something differently. I should have called for back up in the first place, but I wasn't thinking clearly. I knew we had to find the girls and everything else just went -"

"Stop making excuses, Mulder, and look at me."

Although he stops short at her sharp tone, he doesn't seem surprised by it. And he still doesn't look at her.

She opts for a more gentle approach. "Mulder, why do you think I'm angry?"

He winces, raking a hand across the back of his head. "You were put in a situation beyond your control, by both me and this case, and I completely understand your anger. I know you hate any invasion of your privacy, and I know you hate being manipulated. After everything that's happened to you, Scully, I can't help but understand."

"But I'm not angry, Mulder," she says, simply and quietly. "You're wrong."

He doesn't breathe for a moment, his eyes widening. Then comprehension dawns. His shoulders sag with relief and his jaw relaxes. He finally looks at her, into her eyes, and she sees it now. His final secret, hidden from her for so long, completely revealed in his dark eyes. Desire, she sees, but more than that, love. A mirror image of her own emotions, creating the perfect equilibrium between the two of them. It's so much more than she expected, and she wants to wrap him up in her heart.

When she holds her hand out to him, her fingers brush the daisy petals.

A pink daisy. Pink.

Now she knows.


Mulder's sitting on a plastic chair in the waiting room, gripping a magazine so tightly it looks ready to fuse with his skin. He's staring straight out in front of himself, his unfocused eyes spinning with possibilities. Standing in front of him, she sees every terrible outcome flicker in their depths. Once or twice they fill with hope, but other than that he looks ready to compose Gothic poetry. Mulder is often prone to pessimism.

Scully likes to think of herself as a realist. For her, the past three hours have been a nightmare of intrusive tests and questions, organised by doctors on a hunt for cancerous cells. The process has been stomach-clenching, hair-raising, teeth-gritting scary, but she's bourn it all with dignity, as she bears everything. And now the expected outcome has been reached.

"All negative," she tells him when he finally looks up at her, dazed from his thoughts. For a few seconds he stares at her dumbly and she thinks he hasn't heard. "The tests were all negative," she repeats, with a comforting smile. "We're free to go, partner."

Mulder practically flies out of his seat, his arms around her before she can take an automatic step back. As he kisses her hairline and murmurs--"Thank God, Scully, thank God"--she stiffens at his public display. Then she remembers the pink daisy, and she thinks maybe this is okay right now, this kind of emotion.

People are staring at them, but for once she doesn't care. "Shhh," she whispers, reaching up to stroke his hair. "I'm fine, Mulder. We're fine."

He chuckles softly at both the hated words and her new spin on them. "We?" he whispers back, kissing her forehead now.

"Yes, Mulder. We."


Scully has a curiosity, almost a desire, to see the girls with her own eyes--the people she and Mulder were searching for. She visits their rooms, one by one, while Mulder waits outside.

Jen's father seems unable to stop saying "Thank you", although Scully doesn't think she and Mulder deserve it. They worked the case but its solution stumbled upon them, not the other way around. She's not sure what to say to Jen's dad--she's glad the case is solved, but she still struggles with the how and why of it. So she doesn't say much to him, smiling politely and
feeling inadequate.

Bianca's room is last in line down the
sterile hospital corridor. Scully is about to enter when she pauses, her eyes widening. She beckons Mulder over and together they peer through the door's small round window, voyeurs to the poignant scene within.

Propped up by pillows on the bed, Bianca is holding a huge bunch of wildflowers. She breathes in their perfume, a beatific smile on her face.

Robert is sitting beside her, his blue eyes filmy with unshed tears and his mouth
trembling slightly in a grin. When he
speaks and Bianca turns her attention to him, he looks more nervous than he did under interrogation. Her smile doesn't fade--it only grows brighter.

The two agents stand watching for a few minutes, smiles touching their lips, until Scully turns to go.

She takes Mulder's hand as they walk out of the hospital, into the golden evening.


THURSDAY

After staying up well into the night, talking to Curtis about the case and drinking vintage red wine from her cellar, they decline an offer of Cointreau and say goodnight. They've been giving each other looks since they sat down in opposite armchairs--covert, under-lashes glances that have lit Scully's blood into a slow burn. With some satisfaction, she notes that Mulder's pupils have slightly dilated.

They walk through the house without a word, their warm fingers brushing occasionally. Tonight has been much cooler than the previous, with a stronger wind rushing through the forest outside, drowning out the crickets' song. On some unspoken agreement they both head for Scully's room, which has a bigger window to let in the night air. It also has a larger bed.

But when they get into the room, the door clicking shut behind Mulder and the window pulled open by Scully, neither of them know how to proceed. They sit side by side on the bed, first staring at each other, then down at their hands. Time passes while Scully wonders how to make the first move.

Mulder speaks first. "You've been pretty quiet all night."

Mostly, I've been considering everything I'd like to do to you, she thinks. Everything sinful and delicious, everything sensuous. Things you won't ever forget.

Her lips curl in a barely-there, unreadable smile. She's not going to throw herself at him just yet. "I've been thinking about the case," she says, "trying to make sense of it. I've come up with a theory, Mulder."

"It wouldn't happen to be a rational, scientific explanation for what happened, would it?"

"As opposed to the irrational, kooky version?" She tempers her snarky tone by shooting him a grin.

"Ouch," Mulder gasps, bulging his eyes and clutching his heart for a second. It's astounding how mercurial he can be, when he wants to be, because the next second he's perfectly serious. "Tell me your theory, Scully. Go on."

"I think the disappearances were caused by some kind of anomaly--a loophole in the space/time continuum that somehow draws people towards it, then takes them out of time. We've seen this before, Mulder-- we've experienced missing time ourselves."

He shakes his head. "That's different, Scully. Missing time is brought on by alien technology, not natural phenomena. And I don't see how the full moon fits in to any of this."

Mulder doesn't sound dismissive, but she knows that's what he's doing. Dismissing her theory. She hadn't been in the mood for a discussion before, obviously, but now she's raring to argue all night. The temperature of her voice goes down a notch. "I believe that the technology you mentioned--be it alien or otherwise--harnesses the kind of loophole I'm talking about. As for the full moon, I think it somehow activated the phenomenon. Although we've been aware of the moon's effect on the tides for thousands of years, we may still have much to learn about its role in our lives. Some scientists say it might even affect our brain chemistry."

"All right," he concedes, "but explain this--why did the loophole take only one person per night it was activated? And how did it select them?"

"It could probably only affect one person at a time, Mulder--it wasn't very powerful. And I've been thinking the girls and I were either affected because we'd all recently been in the vicinity of the loophole, or affected because of a certain trait in our brain chemistry. The latter would fit nicely with the link to the full moon."

Mulder looks down, plucking at his jeans, and she realises she's upset him somehow. He's keeping his expression blank, and when he speaks, his calm voice doesn't sound natural. "There's still a flaw, Scully. Your theory doesn't explain what I saw."

"Well, the pull of the force on your brain could have caused hallucinations. Maybe you saw what you'd subconsciously been expecting to see."

"And the dreams?" His voice is somehow both hopeful and hopeless. He swiftly glances up at her face, then back down, still fidgeting.

Does he think she's going to deny all that's happened between them? Could he possibly think that? She realises she's said few words of reassurance to him, and Mulder is a man who needs words. His mind doesn't need every piece of the puzzle, but his heart does.

"The dreams were also hallucinations...although in their case, I believe, the girls and I saw what we wanted to see."

It was so easy to say, she thinks. So much easier than she'd thought it would be.

Mulder's eyes close. "So this is what you want, Scully?" His voice is tender, scrubbed raw with emotion. "Really?"

She stands up and moves in front of him, then reaches down, taking his hand and knitting their fingers together. All she sees are his eyes, when she nudges his legs apart, when she takes his face in her hands, when she leans closer. She feels his hot breath on her lips, his jeans scraping her legs, his rough jaw itching the pads of her fingers, but she only sees his eyes. And his eyes crave.

"You know I do," she says quietly, their lips brushing, "you know I always will."

Mulder releases her hand, wraps his arms around her and pulls her closer, closer, until their noses bump and he chuckles. She silences him with her lips, carefully nipping his mouth, making him moan and slide his warm palms beneath her shirt. They move up across her bare back, spreading goosebumbs and electric shivers through her skin.

Scully lets herself be turned around and gently pushed onto the bed. She lies with legs spread and clothes askew, watching Mulder remove his shirt. He takes his time, as button by button her heart beats faster and her skin flushes darker. He has bronze skin and burnished, golden eyes, and when she sits up to undo his jeans, she runs hot kisses over his belly.

They undress each other slowly. Mulder is particularly careful, almost reverent, with her flesh-toned stockings. He kisses down her legs as each inch is uncovered, as her gasps turn breathy and she's too aroused to be embarrassed.

The depth of his self-control astounds her. How can he do this? she wonders, when her hands are full of his hair, his tongue curled inside her. How can he make it ache like this?

She wonders this, just before she breaks and scatters. Just before she sobs his name.

They've lost track of time long ago, it seems, but still, time slows down when he moves inside her. She hears him whispering as he pulls out and pushes in, hears him saying, over and over--"I never want to stop kissing you, Scully, I never want to stop." His lips roam over her upper body, her neck, her breasts, her collar bone, until she pulls him up to meet her eyes and devour her mouth.

She has to assure herself this is really happening --that he's really inside her--so her hands and tongue explore every part of him they can reach. Wanting more, she flips him onto his back, taking control so she can learn the planes of his chest. She plays with his taut nipples and the dip of his navel, and he turns his head to groan into the pillow.

Their speed increases now, as he grows harder and she starts breathing in tiny pants. Her vision distorts and blurs, so she shuts her eyes, concentrating on the deep pleasure she feels spreading again. Mulder glides a hand along her sweaty thigh, stroking softly, but she's gone before he reaches his goal.

Her thoughts are swept up and cast into the sky. She sees the stars sparkle around her, white shining light, before she sinks back down to earth, to feel him slam into her one last time and to watch his own release.

Moments later, lying in his arms, nose pressed against his heart, she remembers the pink candle in her coat pocket.

Next time we'll use it, she thinks, as her mind succumbs to sleep. Next time we'll burn it beside the bed.


END


"And even when the moon was low,
And the shrill winds were up and away,
In the white curtain, to and fro,
She saw the dusty shadow sway.
But when the moon was very low,
And wild winds bound within their cell, The shadow of the poplar fell
Upon her bed, across her brow.
She only said, 'The night is dreary,
He cometh not,' she said;
She said, 'I am aweary, aweary,
I would that I were dead!'"
- Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 'Mariana'


Personal Disclaimer: This story contains some information about paganism that is necessary to the plot. I'm not a pagan myself, and though I have done some research I don't claim to be an authority on the subject. Whatever your beliefs, I'm truly not trying to offend or to cause controversy.

Also, please note that all science in this story is totally bogus. I study biology, not physics :)

Subconscious inspiration for this story came from Sha-na-na's "Blue Moon" on the Grease soundtrack <g>

American tiger lilies do bloom in late spring. They are a.k.a. Oregon lilies, so let's just say this story is set in the very plausible state of Oregon.

All my knowledge about birthstones came from--
http://www.gems4friends.com/birthstones.html so it may not be reliable.

Ray Bradbury is an American author who's written many famous sci-fi novels.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem, 'Mariana', was written about Shakespeare's lonely heroine in 'Measure for Measure'.

Moira Ravenwaves and her website are
purely ficitional.

The being-stranded-on-desert-islandwith
-bestfriend hypothetical can be found
in www.thespark.com's best friend test. I highly recommend all their quizzes :)

I don't know how long it takes to be checked out for cancer, so I apologise if my timeline is completely innacurate for this.

Best wishes to everyone for the coming year!

Oracle
Jan. 2003


Liked it? Hated it? Do you think I'm spooky? Feed me back: apollostemple@yahoo.com
And for more of my fic, visit my website: http://www.invidiosa.com/oracle/

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