Chapter 4: Morning of the Night
By Jenrose, Sunny, and Dawson Rambo
March 4, 1998
The sweet tang of oranges being sliced was a really nice alarm clock, almost as good as the rich pungency of the coffee that followed it.
Waking up with Dana Scully curled up like a child against his bare chest confirmed the sensation that he had somehow finally been wrenched out of the dark nightmare that was Fox Mulder’s normal state of being, and placed in a blissful dream or some domestic haven.
He opened his eyes and looked down at her, enjoying the moment, trying not to move, trying not wake her.
He must have tried too hard, moved too little, held his breath a little too long. She stirred, shifted, started to stretch...
Her dreams were softer this time.
*Far from the sand.*
*Nothing can touch us.*
*Boat rocking steadily, breathing.*
*Heartbeat like time echoing.*
*So warm, rocking.*
*Curled around a small child.*
*Feel her breathing.*
*Reaching for her.*
*Boat disappears, then the water.*
*Even the dream is gone.*
As she woke in the warm nest of pillows and Mulder’s arms, only a thin shred of the dream stayed with her.
*Not fair that even the good dreams hurt.*
Her eyes flew open as the pressure of his body on hers registered. Memories of the night before came rushing to the surface. Overwhelmed, she pushed herself off his lap, onto her feet, instinctively putting distance between them.
*Can’t be that close, too close.*
*Can’t look at him.*
He watched her, wordless. *Don’t go. Don’t pull away from me.*
She turned and fled into the bedroom, unable to meet his eyes, retreating.
He slumped against the couch.
Gwynne came in from the kitchen, wooden spoon in hand, with a flour covered apron tied around her sturdy frame.
He gestured at the hallway to the bedroom, his brow furrowed, lips pressed together.
Gwynne raised an eyebrow behind her flour-speckled glasses. “All right. Can you cook at all?”
He looked mildly surprised at the question, then found his voice. “Uh, sort of.”
She nodded. “I’ve got a couple of things just about ready to go into the oven. If you could put the little butter pats on the coffee cake, and put the cheese on top of the omelet, they can go in the oven together. I’ll go see what’s up with Sally.”
She handed him the wooden spoon. He took it, numbly, as she nudged him toward the kitchen.
She watched him for a moment, frowning. Then she took off her glasses and disappeared down the hallway.
Gwynne knocked gently on the bedroom door. “Sally?” she called softly.
The door cracked open a little, but did not swing wide.
Gwynne found Scully sitting on the bed, knees near her chest, trying to work through the tangled mess her hair had become. Quiet tears were rolling down her cheeks, her face turned down, eyes refusing to meet Gwynne’s.
“I really don’t want to talk about it this time.” Scully said, still keeping her face turned.
Gwynne sat on the bed behind her, and took the brush from her hand. She began separating the tangles. “So don’t talk.”
After a moment, Gwynne spoke. “You know, it’s natural to want to maintain a tight control on yourself when everything else in the world is going crazy. Particularly when it seems other people are pulling all the strings.”
Scully shifted, started to turn, her mouth opening, ready to speak.
Gwynne put a hand on her shoulder, holding her in place. “You don’t want to talk about it. That’s fine. Just listen. I’ll be done in a minute. I’m not into opening wounds this morning.”
Dana settled back into place.
Gwynne unraveled the knot she was working on and moved to a different section. “There’s something for you to think about...You pride yourself on your ability to control your reactions. But if you can’t choose to let other people nurture you, if you can’t choose to let them in, if you automatically lock everyone out when your emotions get too big, then you don’t have control at all.” As the snarls disappeared, Gwynne began to brush in long strokes. ”Dana let us in last night. Scully pushed her partner away this morning. You’re going to have to let Sally treat her husband like a husband, and not like a co-worker you can send home when it gets too intense.”
Dana wrapped her arms around her knees, and let her head rest on them. “I couldn’t be that close this morning. Couldn’t...”
Gwynne pulled a scrunchy out of a drawer, and brought the mass of hair together in a ponytail. “I know. But for this to work, you have to let him in. It may not be ‘safe,’ but if there is anyone in this world for you to trust, it’s him.”
“I do trust him.”
“You trust him. What exactly does that mean? You don’t trust him with your soul. You don’t trust him with your heart.”
Dana’s words were almost inaudible. “I trust him. I don’t trust myself.”
Gwynne smiled at Dana’s back. *I know honey. That’s my point.*
“Don’t you think it’s time to start?”
Dana turned around, put her feet on the floor. “My body betrayed me. My work has cost the life of my sister, my daughter, and God knows how many other people, and the things I want most in this world I can never have. How the hell am I going to trust myself? What is left to trust? Hell, I don’t even trust God anymore, and you expect me to have faith in myself?”
Gwynne’s voice was stern. “Your body has carried you through things most people could never hope to survive. Your work has saved hundreds, if not thousands of people. And this “I can never have what I really want” crap is just depression talking. I expect you to have faith in yourself, to trust yourself enough that you can let yourself be vulnerable to that man out there who loves you enough that he’s pouring every resource he can muster into finding your answers and bringing you peace.”
“I know.” Dana looked down. “But I don’t know how—I thought I knew. After the cancer I was so ready, then Emily—”
She looked up at Gwynne. “I let myself love her.”
“He is not Emily.” Gwynne’s voice was firm. “He’s been in your life much longer, and he’s not going away. Letting yourself be vulnerable to him is not going to kill him, and it won’t kill you either. I know you can’t be ‘Dana’ to his ‘Fox,’ right now. But you have a chance here, being ‘Sally’ to his ‘Martin,’ to learn how to drop some of those barriers you’ve gotten so good at keeping between ‘Scully’ and ‘Mulder.’”
Her voice softened. “You have to be able to be Sally enough so that you can stand in a room naked with him without worrying about grabbing a towel. You have to be Sally enough that you can call him ‘sweetie’ or ‘honey’ without it sounding fake. You have to be Sally enough so that when he climbs into that shower to check your tattoo patch you don’t panic like some kid who’s never seen a man naked.”
At that, Dana’s eyes dropped and she smiled. “Actually, Mulder naked is something I’m a bit too familiar with. Usually it also involves mind-altering substances, illness, or injury.”
Then she looked up. “How much do you talk to Dot Frohike, anyway?”
Gwynne chuckled. “More than her son does. Actually, she’s probably the reason you guys ended up here at all. As I said, we’ve been friends for years. We talked this morning, she had a lot to say about how much, and how little coaching you guys would need for the parts you’re going to be playing.”
Dana tilted her head. “How little?”
“Yeah. You have a huge advantage in that you’ve already had years to get used to each other. The fact that you’ve gone to hell and back with him will make it much easier for you to play the part of having been married for five years.”
“However,” a mischievous expression played on Gwynne’s lips, “It would be better still if you’d already been sleeping together. As it is, you’ll be pushing the physical boundaries of your relationship on a daily basis. I’d suggest that you sleep with him just to get past that, but we can’t have you...uh...fucking like bunnies, as it were, in the heat of the “first days” of a sexual relationship when you’re supposed to already have gotten past that point by four to six years.”
Dana blushed. “Do you really think that will be necessary for the cover to work?”
Gwynne shrugged. “What would you say if you were putting a married couple under surveillance and they were either barely touching each other or they were having sex every waking moment? I’d say that in the first case, they’d either been married for far too long, or were not married at all, and in the second case, that they were newlyweds, not a couple that have been having timed sex for the past two years trying to get pregnant.”
Dana bit her lip. “I see your point.”
“So Dot says, and I agree, that it’s important that you get comfortable with the idea of being naked in front of him, naked with him, showering with him—all that—the hard part for you will be learning to shift from what you’re used to, to a more physical relationship.”
Dana looked down, blushing, and noticed that she was still wearing the shirt she’d traveled in the day before. Suddenly she realized that she had no recollection of taking off her jeans or her bra the previous night.
“Gwynne,” she asked hesitantly, “did you help get me to bed last night?”
Gwynne shook her head. “Nope. And if you didn’t do it....” She gestured to the clothes that had been dropped in a heap on the floor. “You obviously had help.”
She smiled at the deepening blush on Dana’s cheeks. “Why don’t you go take a shower? I’ll send Martin to you in a few minutes to help you wash your...back.”
Dana’s eyes widened. Gwynne burst out laughing. “If you could see your face.... But I want you to do everything you can to be Sally today. If you can do that while you’re in the shower, it should make it much less awkward.”
Gwynne closed the door gently behind her.
It was inertia that allowed him to keep moving long enough to get into the kitchen. His hands were on autopilot as he finished putting the topping on the coffee cake. He shook himself a little, looked around, and found a cast iron pan filled with potato chunks and raw scrambled eggs. He forced himself to dump the bowl filled with chopped raw carrots and onions into the pan, watching the small pieces sink in the yellow liquid as his eyes began to sting from the onion vapors. Blinking back tears, he sprinkled cheese over the surface, until nothing could be seen but shreds of yellow and white, all trace of the vegetables and eggs lost beneath the blanket of cheddar.
He closed his eyes.
*I’m going to lose her again.*
He opened the oven, feeling a blast of heat sear his face as he leaned over to put in the two pans. He pushed the door closed, and it slammed harder than he expected. The noise jarred him.
*Christ. Why the hell can’t she just let me in? What is she afraid of?*
He knew what was tearing her up, knew all too well what was eating away at her soul. Hell. He’d tried to feed his soul to it long ago to protect her.
*Couldn’t protect her. She hates it when I protect her. Can’t get it right.*
*“A high radiation procedure. Causing superovulation.”* Two walls full of little metal drawers. And the sick realization that one drawer bore her name.
*“They’re our mothers.”* And he’d stood there like a fool, too numb, trying to comprehend something as simple as the fact that some bastards had stolen those little miracles. Little miracles that could brighten a life, save a life, grow up to save the world.
*One of those little miracles stole her soul.*
He sank to his knees, hands clenched around something, but he was too far gone to notice, dredging up other memories of Allentown. If he ever saw a Kurt Crawford again, he’d kill the bastard. Just for being there. Just for being alive.
They had gotten over this. The goddamn cancer had gone into remission. And things were finally getting back to normal. Better than normal. She’d grown from her brush with death. For a precious few joyous months he’d watched life flow back into her, the spring come back to her step, the color to her cheeks, hope to her soul.
But then came Emily. He’d been shocked by the overwhelming rush he’d felt when he’d first seen her. Seen her and her mother—seen Dana there playing with her child. He’d told her that he was not the best person to speak for her—but he hadn’t told her how his heart seemed to skip a beat when he first saw them together.
*Is that what a father feels, seeing his child for the first time?* He’d almost lost it when the doctor had asked them if they were Emily’s parents. He’d looked at Scully, and then carefully stepped away, when she’d answered “I’m her mother.” She’d shut him out then. And he’d let her.
Emily wasn’t his child, no matter how much his heart ached for her. She was Scully’s child, and barely. Only her flesh and blood and her heart torn open and left empty.
It had broken her spirit more thoroughly than that damned cancer had destroyed her body. And all his heroic attempts to save her, this time they could do nothing to keep her soul intact.
How much did one person have to go through? *I came so close to losing her before.*
His palms slammed against his eyes, futily attempting to shut out the horror show playing on in his head.
*What if you lost her again? What if you lost her now?*
Gwynne stood for a moment at the doorway to the kitchen. He was curled on his knees, wearing only sweatpants, face smudged from the remnants of his beard, staring blindly at blood oozing from a cut on his hand. Shards of glass surrounded him, but it looked like they’d hit the ground after he did.
a room carpeted with glass knives
sharp sound echoing
shards cutting bare feet
falling to my knees
every piece of glass we’d owned
ruins around me
blood running down my fingers
harsh fragments grinding knees
nothing left to throw*
*Remembering—A young woman, with wise old eyes, pulling the shards out of my skin as all the rage in the world poured out with my blood. Taking me into her arms like a child and making me quit trying to die.*
Gwynne took a deep breath. *Time to pay back an old debt.*
She first swept the shards of glass away from him. He did not seem to notice. Then she pulled out a central vac attachment and began getting the fine dust that remained, watching the glittering slivers vanish up the vacuum hose. She used the vacuum to pull a few remaining pieces off his pants.
Then she sat down cross-legged on the floor in front of him and pulled his hand toward her. His gaze followed his hand. She looked at the cut, realized it was very shallow, and covered it with her hand. His gaze blocked, his eyes moved up to meet hers.
“I can’t lose her. And I think I just did.” His voice was sad, quiet.
Gwynne closed her eyes, smiled, shook her head slightly. “You haven’t lost her. She lost herself.”
He cocked his head at her, frowned. “She ran from me.”
“No.” Gwynne’s voice was stern. “She ran from herself. You are just so close to the heart of her that when she flees from herself, you end up getting left behind too.”
His mouth twisted in a painfully ironic smile. “She told me it wasn’t always about me.”
Gwynne squeezed his hands in hers. “She’s right, in a way. But what you also have to remember is that when it comes to the heart of her, sometimes you’re all that’s there to bring her back.”
He dropped his head down. “But I don’t know how. Last night—she let me hold her—but this morning—”
“This morning she ran because she didn’t know how not to run. She was not running from you. It’s two steps forward, one step back. Still progress.”
He looked up at her then. “Progress.... The past two days were the first time I’d seen her laugh in months.”
“Since Emily died?”
“Last night was the first time you’ve seen her cry.”
“She’s cried before—” he started.
Gwynne interrupted. “But she hasn’t really let it out that way, has she?”
“No. Not ever. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen a tear fall.” He shifted until he was sitting on the floor, and pulled his legs up to his chest.
“You know, don’t you, that she’s trying to stitch her soul back together. Sometimes the pieces won’t stay, sometimes the stitches won’t hold, but every piece found is a victory. She found a few pieces of her soul last night, you helped her pull them in, keep them there. This morning, some of those pieces tried to flee, because the pain is still there. But she has more of her soul now than she did yesterday.”
He gave a small laugh. “Sounds almost shamanic.” He looked up into eyes as old as the world.
Gwynne raised an eyebrow and smiled. “I just call it like I see it.”
His face shifted. “How was she—when you went in?”
“She was trying to brush her hair. She wasn’t being very successful.”
“*Martin*, why don’t you go find out yourself?”
He took a deep breath. “She usually wants to be alone.”
Gwynne sighed. “Scully wants to be alone. But Dana needs to learn to be Sally, and Sally needs her husband’s help to check that silly patch Dot pasted to her back.”
She smiled, and squeezed Mulder’s hands. “She won’t push you away.”
By Jenrose and Dawson Rambo
Somehow, Scully thought, as she pulled off her clothes, being physically naked in front of Fox Mulder was one of the easier things Gwynne had recommended.
Nude, she walked into the bathroom. Like the rest of the house, it was spacious, full of light, potted plants making it seem almost like an atrium. She half expected a bird to fly out of a fern that presided majestically over the toilet. Opposite her was a glass walled shower, off to one side a step-in tub. She looked wistfully at the tub, but decided that would have to wait for later.
She shook her head slightly in bemusement. It seemed almost too real, too vivid, like a photograph with colors and contrast enhanced. The plants seemed greener, the shower bigger, the tub deeper than they had any right to be.
*Hard to be numb in a place like this.*
Towels hung on a bar next to the shower, even folded they looked like she could get lost in them. She stretched out her hand, running her fingers over the thick terry.
*Don’t push him away.*
She reached in, feeling the cold chrome of the shower controls on her fingers. The water rushed out, already hot.
She stepped inside, feeling the heat of the water flutter soft on her cheeks, closing her eyes against the spray.
*So, Scully, what is the protocol for taking a shower with your partner?*
Protocol. She almost laughed.
*Let him in.*
No barriers now, except a semi-translucent glass door, and two months worth of solid brick walls.
Scully knelt down on the floor, sinking to her knees with the weight of her wet hair and the heavy heat of the water pouring around her. The weight of Gwynne’s words pressed her closer to the floor.
*Scully pushed him away.*
Her skin seemed aware of each droplet pounding on it, sliding down. Her lungs drew in deep steam-filled breaths, and her knees pressed against the tiled floor. She sensed, rather than heard when he entered the bedroom, and forced herself to keep taking those full breaths, even though her heart wanted to stop.
*She won’t push you away.*
He undressed mechanically, his sweats falling in a heap where he stood, eyes unfocused. He could hear the rush of water from behind the closed door of the bathroom.
*You haven’t lost her, she lost herself.*
He walked to the threshold and stopped.
His hand pushed the door open slowly, hesitantly. The air in the bathroom was thick with steam. It took a moment for his eyes to settle on the glass door of the shower.
The wavy frosted glass obscured most of the details, all he could see was a small dark form, seemingly crouched or hunched over, near the bathroom floor.
Panic gripped him for a moment and he crossed the bathroom in two great strides, pulled open the door to find her kneeling on the shower floor, her wet hair dark and plastered against her skin, obscuring most of her from view.
She knelt under the spray, he could see she was staring at her cupped hands, watching water pour through them.
*She looks so lost.*
It was easier than he expected to simply step inside the roomy shower stall. He closed the door and reached down to her.
Gently, he urged her to her feet. “Hey.”
She stood, slowly, still facing the wall, closing her eyes as the water rushed against her face.
His eyes dropped as she stood. He saw impossibly tiny feet, toes facing away from him. And then wet, slick calves, water sluicing across and over and down towards her ankles. He started to raise his eyes, drawing them up the curves and planes of her body and then he stopped himself as he realized he’d found the point at which her thighs met.
*This isn’t a peep show, dammit.*
Her eyes stayed closed tightly in the spray. The water rushed down her face, plastering her hair in reddish brown sheets to her chest, pooling in her cupped hands.
*Don’t push him away.*
The control that had kept her breathing slow and even, fled.
His voice was rough. “You okay?”
It was startling how quickly he found her in his arms. Awkwardly, he rested his hands on the wet hair hanging down her back, feeling her shoulders shake against him, her arms curled on her chest between them, her cheek smooth next to his bare, wet chest.
Her words were lost in his chest and the running water. He leaned down a bit and asked, “What?”
He rested his cheek on her wet hair for a moment, tightening his arms slightly. Then he pulled back, tilted her chin up, bringing her eyes to meet his. “Why?”
Her eyes dropped momentarily to his chest, then she looked up at him.
“I’m sorry I shut you out.”
He drew her close again. “It’s okay.” He tried to sound light about it, but his voice wavered.
“No. You were right—Sally shouldn’t shut Martin out.” She rested her cheek against his chest again, feeling the heat of the shower and his skin wrapped around her like a cocoon.
“I think, under the circumstances,” he paused, noticing suddenly what the circumstances were, “it’s understandable.”
He was glad at that moment that her arms were between them, that he couldn’t feel her naked breasts on his chest, that she couldn’t feel....
They stood there for a long moment, the water from the shower running down her back.
“You know I’m here for you. You aren’t alone.” His fingers threaded through the wet mat of hair hanging down her back.
She wrapped her arms around him. “I’m glad you’re here.” She paused, then suddenly became very aware that she was hugging a very naked Mulder, and pulled back.
“Martin,” he corrected, automatically.
“Martin,” she continued. “You’re naked.”
He looked down at her, at the wet ropes of hair plastered to her breasts, her bare stomach, and lower....
“Sally,” he said, with a faint smile, “so are you.”
They stood there for a moment, separate, regarding each other hesitantly.
She broke out into a grin.
“This is really weird, isn’t it?” he said.
She blinked, tilted her head, then answered.
“You know, actually, it’s not as weird as I thought it would be. Actually,” she said, looking up and down his dripping body, “I could get used to this.”
He gulped. “Uh, yeah.”
She turned around, suppressing a smile, and found a bar of soap on a shelf under the shower.
*Why do I think I just let him off the hook?*
His eyes traced the outline of her back, the narrowness of her hips and then the gentle flare of her buttocks. Seeing someone in a hospital Johnny gown was one thing; this was another. His eyes tracked a single droplet of water as it traced its way from a shoulder blade, down her back, across the swell of her left buttock and then down her leg.
She reached back, handing him the soap.
“W—wash your back?” he asked.
She smiled at the wall in front of her, hearing his nervousness. She wondered if the look on his face had changed from the mixture of anticipation and fear, a totally Mulderesque mix of little-kid-in-the-candy-store, and hand-caught-in-the-cookie-jar.
Twisting the soap in his hand, he lathered his fingers and then reached to touch her. She lifted the mass of her hair up and brought it over her shoulder to move it out of his way.
The feel of his soapy, wet hand on her shoulder was not unexpected, but her reaction to it caught her off guard. She...tingled. She closed her eyes, felt her knees wobble.
She sighed as his hands worked lower, gently, slowly, softly, applying soap with a feather touch.
*He’s afraid to touch me,* she thought. *Scared.* She blinked in the spray, realizing that somehow, that made it easier. He wasn’t leering, wasn’t making his usual snide innuendos.
She let out a ragged breath and then stepped back a bit, giving him freer access to her body. She smiled at the shower wall again as she felt rather than heard his answering sigh.
She felt his hands running over the patch. “Take it off,” she said softly.
She felt his fingers at the edge of the prosthesis. A slight tearing sensation, not painful, and then it was off. He handed it to her over her shoulder and Scully took it, washing the side that had been pressed against her back for two days, rolling the glue off with her fingers.
She realized, after a few moments, that she could no longer feel his hands on her skin. She twisted, looking over her shoulder, to find him studying her lower back intently.
He jerked, startled out of his focus by her voice. “Uh...No.”
She raised an eyebrow, still half twisted. “Then what?”
“Uh...I just realized I never have seen this up close before. I wanted to look at it.”
She turned back, facing the wall again, “Y’know, I haven’t seen it up close since I chose it. Kind of in an awkward place.”
She hadn’t had to see it. The image was engraved on her soul as permanently as the ink was embedded in her flesh.
The ouroboros, a snake forever consuming itself, feeding upon its own flesh in a never-ending circle of life, death and rebirth. With a shudder, she remembered the man whose dark eyes had all but seduced her into getting this tattoo, remembered the rebellious feeling of the needle stitching the ink into her skin that wet, drunken night, remembered thinking at the time how freaked Mulder would be if he knew. And here he was, stooped at the waist, bent over to take a closer look at it.
He reached out, traced the outline of the snake with his soapy fingers. His hand was familiar with this place, had gravitated to the small of her back for as long as they’d been partners. So strange to see it marked....
He wondered about the man, about Ed Jerse. He’d wanted so badly to ask, to know, to understand what had happened between them. Scully’s case notes, notes that he’d read one dark, lonely night months later (when he finally worked up the courage to read them) had recounted the conversations between her and Jerse completely. “People get the tattoo they deserve,” Jerse had said.
He left a trail of bubbles along the snake for a moment, obscuring the tattoo.
His fingers slick on her bare skin were nothing like the warm pressure she knew so well, the pressure of his palm resting on her back, through her clothes.
Impulsively, he leaned down and kissed the small of her back, just once, very lightly, lingering motionless with his lips touching her wet skin. Her breath caught in her throat. He straightened and returned to washing her back, fingers gliding over her skin.
She forced herself to breathe again.
His hands left her back, and she sighed softly, missing being touched.
When she found her voice, it was surprisingly raspy.
“Wash my hair,” she suggested.
Gladly, he thought. He located shampoo and quickly poured a dollop into his hand, and then began, fingers gently massaging her scalp, building the lather, making sure to get it all. Her hair hung it wet, soapy tendrils, ends curling where they weren’t plastered to the curves of her back, her shoulders.
She moved her head, leaning back a little into his hands as his fingers pressed against her scalp.
She leaned forward and washed the soap from her hair, running her fingers through it a few times, checking to see that the water ran clear. And then conditioner, and the same process over again. The indulgent feeling of having his hands in her hair was gone much too soon. Eyes closed, she turned, leaning back into the spray, letting the water move the hair away from her skin.
He watched her, not daring to breathe. She was naked before him, stretching and turning in the water, seemingly unconscious of his presence.
She tilted her head back in the water, eyes still closed, and his gaze moved down her body, which, with the veil of hair gone—
He flushed, felt his reaction, turned away, forced himself to breathe.
She heard the sharp sound of his breathing, and opened her eyes, to find his back to her.
“Martin?” She put a hand on his back.
He bit his lip, willing his body to quit reacting, failing as he felt her touch.
“Hey...” Her voice low with concern.
She placed her hand on his arm, tugged, encouraging him to turn around.
“Martin, what is it?”
His answer was low, mumbled. She finally stepped around him, and immediately realized what the problem was.
When he realized where she was, he looked away, started to turn.
“No.” Her voice was firm, low, colored with a touch of amusement and all the strength he knew she was capable of. She caught his arm, preventing him from turning.
*Dammit,* he thought, *Stupid. Can’t control—*
He still refused to meet her gaze.
Finally she stepped close to him, almost touching, and reached up and brought his face around to hers.
“I’m letting you in. Don’t shut me out. I’m a grown woman, a doctor, I know what happens to the male body in the presence of...certain stimuli, and that,” she said, gesturing to his penis, “is not something you need to be ashamed of. For Pete's sake, Mulder, I’ve catheterized you God knows how many times—”
“Martin,” he whispered.
His eyes kept darting away from hers. She stepped back, put her hands on her naked hips, and glared at him. “Look at me.”
He looked at her face, then, struggling not to look lower, but also struggling to keep looking at those eyes flashing fire at him—
She deliberately reached up, cupping her breasts in her hands. “They’re breasts. They’re mine. Look at them.”
His mouth went dry, but his gaze dropped obediently.
Sure enough, they were.
He looked farther down, at her smooth stomach, and a strange look crossed his face. “Scu—Sally, you have an outie.”
She grinned. “That’s better. Look at me. We’re supposed to be comfortable with this. And it’s not either an outie.”
He realized then that he was breathing again, that he could do this, after all....
She reached out to him, this time to turn him around, so that he stood facing the shower head, his back to her. He looked back at her with a question on his face.
She smiled and said softly, “My turn.”
He nodded, and handed her the soap.
Her touch on his back was firm, sliding easily across the skin, but working deeper in to the muscles, massaging as she scrubbed.
He felt her fingers on a knot, unraveling it, pressing it out of existence, and sighed, knees suddenly less solid then they normally were.
“Mmmm...Sally...where did you learn that.”
She chuckled, working her way down the ropy muscles. “Dunno,” she said, teasing. “Just something I picked up.”
Her fingers moved quickly, he felt the muscles surrendering almost instantly to her touch. His eyes closed involuntarily, and he could feel something rumbling in his throat.
“Mu—Martin? Are you purring?”
He found he was incapable of responding.
The water rushed hot against his face, down his neck, down his back and chest. *She must be getting kind of cold—I’m blocking all the water.*
She finished soaping his back, and reached around him to soap his chest.
He was abruptly aware of her naked body pressed against his back, and put out his arms to steady himself against the shower wall and the glass door.
*Dammit, she knows what this is doing to me....*
Her voice was low, amused. “Yes, Martin,” she said, arms still wrapped around him, hands sliding soap across his chest and stomach, “I know what I’m doing. I’m trying to get you a little more comfortable with this ‘naked’ thing.”
“Sally,” he rasped, “It’s not the naked thing that I’m having a hard...uh...time with right now. It’s the ‘feeling your wet, naked body plastered up against mine’ that’s causing me difficulty at the moment. I’m—how shall I say this—having difficulty...maintaining my professional boundaries.”
He could feel her laughing against him, and noted that it was not the most unpleasant of sensations.
“Professional boundaries?” she finally managed to sputter, “You’re worried about professional boundaries? Really?”
He frowned into the hot water. She had a point. *So do I at the moment,* came an irreverent thought.
Then he was laughing, too. He turned around and hugged her impulsively, ignoring his body’s antics, and reveling in the laughter.
Her laughter died down as she found herself surrounded by his embrace. Then her arms circled his back, drawing herself more tightly against him, ignoring the hard pressure on her belly.
A rush of communication flashed between them.
*Help me. Help me be this Sally person, this Martin person’s wife.*
*Help me be your husband.*
This case, this mission, was the most important one they had been on to date—they both knew this.
*I need you, but I’m here for you too,* her embrace said.
*I’m here, and I’ll try to let you in,* he answered, tightening his arms just a bit.
She stepped back then, looking up at him with a tender smile.
He bent down, and rested a gentle kiss on her lips, for just a moment.
When he stood upright, she ran a hand along his chest, noted that the slickness of the soap was gone, and then reached around him to turn off the water.
He moved past her, pulling in a towel, unfolding it with a flourish. He dried her as she watched him, a bemused smile flicking across her lips. He crouched, carefully drying each leg. He hesitated at her crotch, but she simply moved her legs a little farther apart. With a minimum of contact, and a slightly glazed look in his eyes, he ran the towel along the insides of her thighs and across her groin.
Somehow the rest was much easier. When he finished, he wrapped it ceremoniously around her shoulders, then turned to get the other towel.
Her arms around his waist stopped him. She took the towel off her shoulders, and proceeded to dry him off as well, crouching down as he had done to dry his legs, ignoring his slightly panicked look as she gently dried the rest of him.
When she was finished, she reached around and deftly secured the towel at his waist, then quickly reached out and nabbed the dry towel, grinning at him. He shook his head, and stepped out. She started to wrap the towel around her chest, but he stopped her, pointing to the small prosthesis on the shower shelf.
She nodded, handed the square to him, then wrapped the towel around her waist. Before she stepped out of the shower stall, she wrung her hair out over the drain.
“Ready?” he asked.
“Ready,” she affirmed. She leaned over the sink.
His fingers on her skin again, testing, seeing if it was dry. The smell of alcohol, sharp in the air. The coolness of it against her skin, cleaning the soap and the oil away. His fingers, tracing the outline of the tattoo.
His fingers, tugging the towel a little lower, needing the room to work, and then the breeze as the towel loosened completely and fluttered to the floor. She moved as if to retrieve it, feeling incredibly open and vulnerable, almost on display. Somehow she felt more naked here, without the water running down her body.
He pressed against her back softly with just the balls of his fingers, asking for her trust.
She gave it, resting her elbows on the vanity.
“Hurry up,” she said, and then realizing what he might think, softly added, “I’m cold.”
She felt the glue brush against her skin, and then a moment later the cool press of the prosthetic. “Hold on,” he whispered. “Dot said you had to let it set for a minute.” His fingers again, on her skin, tracing the square of fake skin, getting the bubbles out, making sure the seal was perfect. His finger, tracing blending cream around the edge, tickling.
She felt him squat behind her and wondered what the hell he was looking at. She glanced in the mirror and saw that he wasn’t looking, that his face was turned to the side, his eyes discreetly averted. Then she felt the towel climbing her legs as he draped it around her middle again. Another small kiss, this one on her shoulder.
“Done,” he said, straightening and looking at her in the mirror.
“Thanks,” she said, tugging the towel higher, covering her breasts, turning to face him.
“No problem,” he said again.
She felt the need to say more, to let him know that she wasn’t just thanking him for the application of the fake skin. “For...everything.”
His soft smile was his only answer.
“Go get dressed,” he said.
“Not yet. I have to do yours.”
“Oh, right,” he mumbled. She scooted up and sat on the smooth counter next to the sink. She realized then that he’d lost his towel, and felt herself instinctively trying not to look at his naked body. *He’s my husband,* a voice whispered. *I can look. I should look. Why is it so different out here?*
Her eyes found his feet and climbed. The cool air had done it’s job and Mulder was no longer tumescent. For that, Scully was glad, for the thought of having an erect, bobbing Mulder twelve inches away was a bit more than she wanted to deal with while trying to keep control of her hands.
Her eyes found his face and she concentrated her attentions there; his beard was coming along; it still needed help, but not much. Her hands traced his jaw, turning his head to one side and then the other.
“Cold cream first?” she asked.
Twisting at the waist, looking for the small jar, she felt the towel slip from under her arms and pool at her waist.
Automatically, her hands went to retrieve it. Tugging, she felt resistance. His hands were holding the towel at her waist. His eyes were averted, not looking, his top teeth chewing his bottom lip. Then, just as she’d done, he seemed to gather his will, and looked again at her body, her naked breasts. His thoughts reached her, as if he had spoken them aloud.
*I’m trying to get comfortable with this.*
Releasing her grip on the towel, feeling her nipples tighten in the cool air of the bathroom, “Sally” returned to searching for the cold cream.
She found the small jar and opened it, dipping two fingers inside to scoop out a generous dollop. Mulder stepped closer, leaning against the vanity in the “V” formed by her legs.
She applied it, stroking it against his beard, closing her eyes at the sensation of the prickly hairs under her fingers.
She found a washcloth and quickly wet it, and then wiped the cold cream off. His beard went from an almost black dark brown to a slightly lighter shade, a color closer to his own hair.
His gaze fell on Scully *Sally.* as she worked. From his height and angle, he couldn’t help but see her.
All of her.
Had he been asked prior to this moment, Mulder would have expected arousal or excitement. He was surprised at the wave of warmth and tenderness that washed over him.
The flick of the brush against his face tickled, and he winced.
“Hold still,” she chided softly.
“How are we going to do this if we suspect surveillance?” he asked.
“Steam,” she answered. “We’ll do this as soon as we get out of the shower, when the bathroom is full of steam.”
Made sense. They’d have to test the theory.
Soon, too soon, she was finished. She recapped the bottle and smiled at her partner *Husband, Sally.* and then reached for the towel.
“You are so beautiful,” he whispered. She flushed.
“Gotta get dressed,” she mumbled, unable to look at him.
He whispered, “Scully—I...”
She turned from him then, tightening the towel around her body, and fled into the bedroom alone.
As he watched her go, Gwynne’s words came back to him.
*Two steps forward. One back. Still progress.*
Note: You’ll notice some new names in the author list. Ellen R. and Sarah Kiley have joined us for the long haul. Dawson is focusing on his projects for a while, and will be helping out primarily as technical editor for the time being. Sunny will be back for later chapters.
Jenrose, Ellen R., Sarah Kiley, and Ashlle
Gwynne sliced the omelet into wedges, her eyes focused not on the pan full of eggs, but rather on the shifting colors projected onto the lenses of her glasses. The infrared images did not obscure the eggs; she could see what she was doing simply by shifting her focus, looking through her lenses instead of at them.
The walls of the bathroom were cool, a dull green, but Gwynne’s attention was centered on the reddish blobs moving in the cooler yellow of the steamy air.
Abruptly one of the blobs moved out of her view, leaving the other shifting restlessly. The red blob moved over near the sink, and a streak of cool blue suggested that the cold water had been turned on.
*Brushing teeth?* She guessed, then shrugged.
A chime rang, signaling to both Gwynne and the display controller that someone was at the front door. The video feed immediately shifted to a view of the porch. She smiled as she recognized the visitors.
Refocusing her eyes to look through the image, Gwynne set the pan of eggs on a hot pad in the middle of the table.
She wiped her hands on a dish towel as she walked to the front door, then reached up and thumbed a tiny switch on her glasses, returning them to a more conventional clarity.
The tile floor was cool under Mulder’s feet as he stood for a long moment facing the closed bathroom door.
Sighing, he turned, sat. The counter warm against his bare skin, still warm....
*Give her a few minutes.*
Mulder looked down at his hands and twisted the wedding ring around with his thumb.
His lips pursed, frowning, and for the first time that morning he noticed the small piece of plastic behind his lip. He pushed himself away from the counter, opened the drawer beneath, and found a toothbrush in a wrapped box. Another toothbrush stood up damply from a cup by the sink.
He spit the plastic out, and began brushing it gently with toothpaste. After he finished with his teeth, he popped the plastic bit back in, marveling at how easily it made itself at home behind his lip.
Finally, he wrapped his towel around his waist, and opened the door.
Scully was fully dressed, standing, staring at herself in a full length mirror by the window. She waved a strangely shaped dryer at her hair, which hung in wet curls down to her butt. The dark red was a strong contrast to the deep green of her shirt.
“Hi honey, I’m home,” he said softly.
She looked at him in the mirror, watching a lingering drop of water slide from his hair, down his neck, shoulder, chest.
She thumbed off the dryer.
“Mulder, I—” she stopped, uncertain as to how to explain why she ran from him. “I need you to understand....” She paused.
She took a deep breath, surprised at how much the distance he’d just imposed stung.
*Did he feel like this when I ran?*
‘I’m sor—” the words cut off as the towel dropped to the floor. She suppressed a gape, and averted her widening eyes. A flush crept into her cheeks.
*Did he feel like this in the shower?*
Pushing back the thought, she turned to look at him. Fully.
Bathed by the sunlight streaming in through the window, he reminded her of a panther, power and strength trapped in sleek, lithe muscles under taut, soft skin. She blinked and felt a rush of heat-assaulted with a momentary flash of her hands on his body, feeling that warm smooth skin beneath her fingertips.
Mulder watched her face, following the track her gaze was taking as it moved over his body. Realizing just where she wasn’t looking, he suppressed a smirk. *She’s trying so hard. I need to make this easier for her, not more difficult.*
He spoke. “Yeah?”
Swallowing, she tried to figure out how to put what she wanted to tell him into words. The sight of him was making it difficult to speak at all, and coherent speech was out of the question. She shut her eyes tightly. *When you touch me and tell me I’m beautiful, I don’t know if I’m Scully or Sally, and I don’t know if you’re Mulder or Martin, and that scares the hell out of me.*
She opened her eyes, found him standing inches away from her. She fought back an urge to run. Her eyes started to slide away from his, then returned. “Tell me.” His voice low, soft.
*Where’s that unspoken communication when I need it?* she wondered.
“I want to hear you say it.” His voice echoed quietly in her head, and she wondered if he’d spoken out loud.
She looked down, realized what she was looking at, then settled her gaze on the more neutral territory of his chest hairs.
“I don’t know where the boundaries are anymore. I don’t know...”
*Boundaries. I’m standing naked in front of my partner and she’s worried about boundaries.*
His chest hairs were fluttering, and she realized he was chuckling silently.
She felt a flash of irritation at his laughter. “I’m trying to tell you—”
Scully found suddenly that her nose was pressed against his chest as he wrapped his arms around her tightly. She blinked, trying to reorient herself.
“Scully...This does seem to be pushing some of the more extreme possibilities, doesn’t it?” His chest rumbled against her ear. “I’m not laughing at you, I’m laughing at the situation.”
She pulled back out of his embrace, trying to look stern.
Her voice was very controlled. “Clothes. Closet.”
*Too controlled,* Mulder thought. *Like she’s fighting for control.*
“Spoilsport.” He pouted at her, eyes twinkling.
She rolled her eyes, and pointedly turned her back on him, thumbing her diffuser back on to finish drying her hair.
He walked over to the open closet and pulled out a tweedy jacket. “Brown. Yuck.”
She smirked. “I wore the peaches shirt. You can’t complain about a simple jacket.”
He sighed and pulled out some beige pants. “So where did she hide my underwear?”
Scully raised an eyebrow. “Top left drawer. Next to the socks.”
Glancing over his shoulder as he stepped into soft knit boxers, Mulder caught her looking at him in the mirror. *Gotcha.* He winked at her and wiggled his hips deliberately as he pulled the boxers up.
She blushed and looked away, but he could see a small smile.
Chuckling, he turned around to sit on the edge of the bed.
“Argyle socks? Shoot me now....”
She shook her head slightly, then flipped her hair upside down to dry the underneath.
“Don’t complain. I couldn’t find a single pair of pumps. Not a heel higher than a half an inch anywhere in the closet.”
“Well, you are supposed to look different—subtracting a couple of inches can only help.”
She glared at him from underneath her hair. “Easy for you to say, Mr. six-foot-one.”
Sarah Eglantine bounded into her mother’s kitchen, and dumped her backpack on the floor with a thud. “They gonna come out soon?” she called out as she pulled out a small bag of whole coffee beans from her pack.
Jess Eglantine wrapped her arm around her mother’s waist, and they followed Sarah into the kitchen at a more sedate pace. Gwynne caught Sarah’s hand, smelled the coffee beans appreciatively, and smiled. “Yep. They’re just getting dressed now. Is that Macadamia Nut?”
Sarah grinned. “Uh huh. I nabbed the first scoop out of the new shipment, just for you.”
Gwynne kissed her younger daughter’s cheek. “You’re just trying to butter me up.”
Jess set her purse on the counter next to the coffee cake. She picked up a table knife, cut the cake into squares, then set it on the table. “So what are they like?” Looking up, she found her mother carrying a stack of plates to the table.
“I think you’ll like them. He’s a wise ass, she’s a skeptic, and they’re both good as gold.” Gwynne set the plates down.
She walked over to the refrigerator to pull out the large pitcher of chilled fresh orange juice. With her face hidden from her daughters, Gwynne reached up and thumbed the little switch again.
Her eyes twitched, then adjusted to the image, and she saw that the two red blurs were in the bedroom, a lighter, orangy red indicating that their bare skin had been covered. She thumbed off the screen and stood up as Sarah poured some beans into a small electric grinder. Sarah’s palm pressed on the top of the grinder, and a grating noise filled the room.
“I’ll go see if they’re ready for breakfast,” Gwynne called out over the roar of the coffee grinder.
When he finished pulling on his clothes, Mulder stood up and turned around for Scully’s appraisal.
He was rewarded with a grin. “You look like an absentminded professor. Your socks don’t match.”
He looked down at his stocking feet, puzzled, Sure enough, the argyle patterns were in different colors. He started toward the drawer to look for a complete pair. Her hand on his arm stopped him.
“Don’t....” The gleam in her eye was positively devilish. “I’ve always had a thing for academic types. Besides,” she added, “I think that was intentional. Though I daresay mismatched argyle socks might be going a bit too far.”
He looked up, sighed. “She thinks of everything, doesn’t she?”
They both spun around to find Gwynne standing in the doorway of the bedroom.
“We have some company. My daughters are joining us for breakfast.”
Mulder and Scully looked at each other, faces mirroring apprehension, then back at Gwynne.
Gwynne shook her head and chuckled. “Just put on your best “Martin and Sally” faces, and come have some eggs.”
She turned, and they followed her to the kitchen.
The toasty smells of baked cheese and sweet cake set stomachs to growling and mouths to salivating as they stepped into the kitchen.
“Is that coffee I smell?” Scully sniffed appreciatively.
Mulder took a deep breath.
The young woman at the espresso machine couldn’t have been more than 20. Her straight hair, pulled back in a ponytail, was streaked with the remains of some color nature never intended. Her clothes hung from her in a deliberate disarray, and her feet looked ten sizes bigger than the rest of her, weighted down by heavy black boots.
Sitting at the table was a woman who looked to be in her early thirties, much more conservatively dressed, though equally relaxed. She sipped a demitasse of espresso, regarding Martin and Sally Harrod with interest.
“Organic Macadamia Nut Dark Roast blend,” the younger woman answered.
Mulder looked amused. “PC coffee?”
The young woman looked at him, tilted her head, raised her eyebrow, and asked slowly, “Would you prefer Mac-spresso?”
The other woman rolled her eyes at the pun. “Bad one sis...”
Scully elbowed Mulder, then grinned at the young woman. “No thanks, that smells too good.”
Gwynne smiled, “Martin, Sally, meet my daughters. This is Jessie,” gesturing to the woman sitting at the table, “and that rebel over there is Sarah.”
“Mom, don’t hassle me...I’m making your coffee.” Sarah’s voice was tinged with amusement. “Do you guys like steamed milk in your espresso, or espresso in your steamed milk?” She turned to them, her full lips quirking into a smile.
They blinked at her, trying to make sense of the question, when Jessie clarified, with a bemused smile. “What my sister is trying to communicate is that she can make you a latte, or a cappuccino, whichever you prefer. And you can call me Jess,” she said, looking pointedly at her mother.
Scully smiled. “Uh...cappuccino.”
Mulder looked at her, then said in a mock whisper, “She wants chocolate sprinkles if you have them.”
Sarah chuckled. “One cappuccino with chocolate sprinkles. And for you, sir?”
“Sir?” Mulder blinked.
“Well, you have been my toughest professor for a year. I think that deserves a ‘Sir.’” She winked at him and held a small metal pitcher of milk up to the spout of the machine.
His brain completely failed to compute that, so he shrugged and said, “espresso with sugar. A year? I thought I was on sabbatical.”
The loud bubbling hiss of the steam frothing the milk made it impossible for her to reply immediately.
As she assembled the cappuccino, she spoke. “You have been on sabbatical this semester, but I’ve been helping you set up your research project in San Diego since early January, and before that I was doing a work-study position in your department. You’re an awfully demanding prof....”
Scully chuckled as she took the cup from Sarah. “That fits. Thanks.” Mulder frowned. “January...San Diego...”
Gwynne sat down and began serving the wedges of omelet and squares of cake. “When Frohike told us what you’d found there, we knew you’d be heading back. I was actually kind of surprised it took you two months to think of it.”
Scully shot a look at Mulder. *He told them. Not me.*
He looked down at his feet and said softly, “I didn’t tell Scully everything until Monday.”
Gwynne looked at him long and hard, and frowned. Then she turned to Scully. “Well, although I can’t condone his keeping something like that from you, he did buy us some time to set some things up for your trip down there.”
Scully looked away from them and took a long sip of her coffee. Mulder bit his lip.
The only sound, as Gwynne set the food on the plates, was the gurgle of the espresso machine.
Sarah handed Mulder his coffee.
“So,” she began, breaking the increasingly uncomfortable silence, “Whose idea was it for Martin here to grow a John-boy beard?”
Scully looked at Sarah quizzically, then noticed Jessie was hiding her mouth in a napkin. “John-boy?”
Gwynne glared at her younger daughter. “John Byers.”
Scully chuckled, regarded Mulder for a moment. “Y’know, there is some resemblance, Martin.”
He looked bemused. “Actually, I think it was Dot Frohike’s idea....”
Sarah laughed, and replied, staring at her sister, “Told ya Ma Frohike had a soft spot for John-boy—You’re just lucky she didn’t make you grow Uncle Muggy sideburns.”
“Uncle Muggy?” Scully croaked as both guests looked up in anticipation. Was Uncle Muggy—no, surely not....
Gwynne laughed. “Frohike.... When Sarah here was tiny, she couldn’t say “Melvin,” so “Unka Muggy” was one of her first two-word phrases. It stuck.”
Mulder’s grin was positively gleeful at that precious bit of information.
Scully frowned, tried to picture Frohike as an “Unka Muggy,” and failed. The idea was so absurd that she snorted. The cappuccino made an unexpected detour through her nose. She grabbed a napkin and turned away from the table.
Jessie looked at Martin for a long moment. “He doesn’t look a bit like John.”
Scully looked up over her napkin at Mulder and suddenly realized that he did, indeed, have a Byers beard.
Sarah started to say something, but Gwynne shot her a warning look that silenced her immediately.
Then Jessie turned, looked at her sister, and asked, “So have you seen Mr. Langly lately?”
Sarah coughed, blushed.
Jessie turned to their guests and smiled. “She’s had a crush on Ringo Langly since she was fourteen.”
Sarah raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, and you’ve been carrying on a torrid affair with John-boy for how many years now?”
Scully shook her head, trying to equate her mental image of John Byers with the phrase “torrid affair” and failing completely. She could feel Mulder’s whole body shaking with suppressed laughter. *If Langly has a nickname, Mulder’s going to lose it.*
Jessie stood up abruptly and took her plate over to the sink. “That’s different. And it’s not a torrid affair. We’re friends.”
“Right, sis. You just keep telling yourself that.”
Gwynne spoke then, “Girls!”
*A mother’s voice, saying “Girls!” Teasing banter....* Scully felt her eyes begin suddenly to sting. She took a deep breath.
Mulder was studying the family intently. “So you’ve known the guys for how long?”
Gwynne’s eyes glazed as she counted back.
“Let’s see—We met Dot and Muggy in early 1974, Ringo and John in, oh.... ‘bout 1990 or 1991.”
“1974.” Mulder echoed. “My sister was taken...”
Gwynne looked him in the eye, “November 27, 1973. As was my son.”
Mulder met her gaze for a long moment. “How old was he?”
She looked down at the table. “Noel was 10.”
His breath caught in his throat.
Finally a question found his tongue and used it. “The Project...”
She nodded. “My husband was involved. He was killed because he...threatened to expose them if they didn’t bring our child back. He was supposed to be an “object lesson” for the other families. When he was killed. Let’s just say my name has not always been Gwynne, nor has Jessie always been Jessica.”
“Why didn’t I know about you? If the guys have, for so long—”
Gwynne looked at him. “When Muggy came to me and told me who he’d met, what you were doing—I told him our story, but I made him swear not to tell you about us.”
“Why???” His voice had an edge to it that Scully recognized as something bordering on betrayal. She moved closer to him.
“I knew who you were—I knew your mother—and I knew that if you still used the name Fox Mulder you were still being watched very carefully. They think I’m dead, they’re not looking for me. I couldn’t risk my daughters that way.”
Scully looked at Sarah. “But you said 1973—Sarah can’t be older than 19 or 20.”
Sarah interjected. “My mother was Karen Sarasdar. Gwynne is my other mother. And you’re right, I was born in 1979.”
“Why now? If you couldn’t help us then, why can you risk it now?” He was maintaining control, but barely.
Gwynne nodded at him. “Martin Harrod is not being watched. I told the boys that if you asked for help going undercover, if you motivated it, I would help then. But as long as you were acting as “Fox Mulder, FBI,” they were watching you too closely; the risk was too great. Besides, the girls are all grown up now, and have chosen to be part of this.”
*Martin. Have to be Martin.* He looked down. *How many people are going to get hurt because of this?*
Scully put a hand on his arm. “We are all choosing to do this...And you are not responsible for what those bastards have done.” She reached up and pushed his hair back from his forehead. He took a deep breath, and she could see some of the tension leave.
She looked up at Gwynne. “Is this a quest for justice for you, for your son, your husband?”
Gwynne regarded her for a long moment. “Actually, I think it’s that I want to stop them from destroying more families the way they destroyed mine, and yours,” nodding at Mulder, “And yours,” she said, gesturing at Scully.
They ate in silence.
Finally Mulder spoke. “So what’s the plan for today?”
“Well, Jessie is going to take Sally over to their office. Sarah and I will take you to campus. You each need to have some passing familiarity with the places you’ve been working for the past couple years.”
Scully blinked. “Wait a minute. How does this work? Our office?”
Jess grinned. “Well, you see...We have an office with a lab. I see all the patients, and you’ve been doing research. You’re kind of odd, working at night, mostly.”
She paused, bit her lip. “You haven’t been in the office since October. The rumor then was that you were sick.” She paused. “In January, the rumor went around that you’d miscarried, and were taking time off to deal with it.”
Scully looked down at the table. “Oh.”
Gwynne reached out and took one of Scully’s hands. “We have tried to keep the rumors in directions running parallel to what you’ve dealt with over the past year. In October...”
“The cancer metastasized. And in January, Emily...” Scully’s words were quiet.
Jess continued. “Telling people you’d miscarried made them automatically assume that your earlier absence was due to morning sickness. They think the reason you’re not coming back is that you can’t stand to be around all the pregnant women on staff.”
*That hits too close to home.* Scully took a deep breath. “So why are we going in?”
Jess nodded. “You’re packing some things to take with you to San Diego. They all think you’re going down there to buy some Mexican baby or something.”
Scully raised her eyebrow. “Do they spend a lot of time discussing my fertility?”
Sarah snorted. “Bunch of busybodies and gossips.” She chuckled. “And my darling sister is ever so circumspect about how she starts these rumors.”
Scully remembered some of the more interesting rumors that had come out of the FBI secretarial pool, and chuckled. “I can just imagine.”
“So we’ll spend maybe an hour there this morning.” Jess smiled. “Then we can go have fun in town.”
“So what will my husband be doing while this is happening?” Scully asked primly.
Mulder began coughing, and set down his orange juice.
Sarah suppressed a smile, and answered, “Well, Mom and I will take him to campus, where he will meet his faithful assistant, Dena Marys, and a couple of other key staffers. We thought about having him teach a class, but we just won’t have time.”
“Who’s Dena Marys?” Scully asked. “Should I be jealous?”
Sarah sputtered, and Gwynne shot her a stern look.
Jess explained. “Uh, first of all, Dena is Mom’s age. And second, she doesn’t, uh, swing that way.”
Gwynne continued. “Dena is an old friend. She does most of the real work for your classes, as a favor to me. She also helps us plant rumors, but she doesn’t know your “real” background.”
“Martin, you will take a grand tour of “your part” of the campus with Sarah while I take care of a few things.”
Mulder nodded. “So what’s my story for being there today?”
“Same thing, essentially. You’re collecting the things you’ll need in San Diego for your research project. Dena has everything. She’ll catch you up on the research you’re working on.” Gwynne stood up to help Sarah clear away the breakfast dishes.
Continue to Chapter 5