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					Title: SOLITARY CONFINEMENT (1/9)
Author: Jean Robinson (jeanrobinson@yahoo.com)
Disclaimer: Characters from the X-Files are the property
of Ten Thirteen Productions and the Fox Television
Network. All others are property of the author. No
infringement is intended.
Rating: NC-17
Classification: MSR
Archive: Please ask permission.
Spoilers: Up through "Firewalker."
Summary: Being alone with your thoughts can be worse
than sharing them.
Feedback: Would rock my world at
jeanrobinson@yahoo.com
Author's notes at the end
*****************************

SOLITARY CONFINEMENT
By Jean Robinson


No breeze disturbed the slightly stale, temperate air. If
not for a faint hiss too regular and rhythmic to attribute
to any known variety of snake, the silence would have
rivaled that of the sterile void of space. No odors tickled
the olfactory receptors to invoke sensory memories of
freshly baked bread or rain-washed pavement. Even the
light source was steady and even; daylight was on and
nighttime was off. Twilight and dawn, partly sunny or
partly cloudy did not exist in this environment.

Eight days into a thirty-day quarantine period, Dana
Scully was slowly going bananas within this monotonous
setting.

And she wasn't sure how much longer she could
maintain a facade of rationality and normalcy in the face
of it all.

She sat tailor-fashion on a plain bunk, staring sightlessly
at the chessboard on the mattress in front of her.
Mulder, with the grim concentration of a Grand Master,
had nudged his rook forward but still clutched the piece
with the tips of his fingers, unwilling to commit to the
move until he'd exhausted all possible considerations for
how Scully might respond to his gambit.

As if it mattered. As if he hadn't already beaten her every
time they'd played so far. As if he truly thought she was
just biding her time and lulling him into a false sense of
security, all the while plotting to rise up and smite him
with a counterattack worthy of Bobby Fischer.

As if it hadn't been the same for the games of checkers,
backgammon, gin rummy, poker and even "Go Fish," for
heaven's sake.

Mulder hadn't said anything so far. Had not appeared to
notice his incredible winning streak. Didn't seem to find
anything out of the ordinary that his partner could not
even beat him at a children's card game that required
only the most rudimentary memory skills.

Scully was going crazy waiting for the penny to drop.
Although he hadn't said as much with his mouth,
Mulder's eyes betrayed him. For every foolish move she
made on the backgammon board, for every time she left
her queen undefended, allowed Mulder to be "kinged" yet
again, forgot he had just asked her for an ace and
therefore must have one in his hand, or failed to notice
that he was collecting fours and unwittingly discarded
one, she saw that little worried flicker in his hazel eyes.
Sometimes it was accompanied by the tiny crease in his
forehead as he frowned ever so slightly. The one he tried
to cover by focusing on his cards or the game board.

The one she knew was directed instead at her.

What's up, Scully? that frown said. What's wrong? Would
you like to explain why, exactly, you've had the
concentration and attention span of a sea slug these last
few days?

Bad enough to contend with his faint but knowing
expression about her scatterbrained behavior during
daylight hours.

Realizing that he must have heard her nightmares and
still said nothing was becoming unbearable.

They shared a sparse, functional ten by ten foot room,
their beds separated only by a thin beige curtain that
they drew when changing or sleeping. There was no way
he could =not= know.

Not when she woke up gasping and choking, heaving for
air with the scream barely locked in her tense, aching
throat. When not a night passed without one, sometimes
two surreptitious trips past his bed to the bathroom to
rinse away the sweat and the fear with a sinkful of warm
water and the rough green facecloth she'd been allotted.

Not when she'd spent the balance of two nights in the
bathroom throwing up, her initial efforts to calm both her
racing heart and her roiling stomach having proven
unsuccessful.

Yet Mulder remained mute on the subject of her
distressing nocturnal activities, leaving Scully as the sole
combatant in three-way internal war, torn between
wanting to blurt out the entire story of the nightmares in
the hope of assuaging their intensity, being relieved that
he hadn't attempted to pry anything out of her just yet,
and frantic with the knowledge that at some point he
would just blindside her into confessing everything.

They'd tried to be careful. But the Army Biohazard team
had been only minutes away, and they were both still
stunned and bewildered at the events they'd witnessed
on Mount Avalon.

Mulder's awe lay grounded in the terrible secrets
Firewalker had unearthed from the volcano.

Scully's own paralysis could be traced back not so much
to her narrow escape from infection as to her
astonishment that her partner was allowing Daniel
Trepkos to walk away with Jesse's body. Even after all
she'd seen and done with Mulder, that he would willfully
aid and abet the escape of their sole surviving witness
came as something of a shock.

Add in the fact that neither of them had slept for almost
three days, and it was understandable, if not excusable,
that errors were made.

First and foremost being that while all the infected
descent team members were gone, the inactive spore
traces from Jesse's contamination were still plainly
visible within the containment room.

Mulder had argued strenuously that both he and Scully
had been outside at the time the spores had been
released.

The Army team, dressed in biohazard suits resembling
something out of the latest sci-fi flick, had taken one
good look at them and politely and implacably disagreed.

At least in Scully's case.

For her partner, coated with mud, leaves and volcano
muck from the soles of his hiking boots to the knees of
his well-worn jeans, they were willing to allow some
leeway. Mulder =could= very well have been outside the
bunker when the last of the fungus forced its lethal way
out of its final victim.

But Scully, clean and dry, her only outerwear being a
light sweater which didn't hide an unexplained red mark
around her left wrist, presented the perfect picture of an
indoor dweller. And since the door to the containment
room was not closed -- one more thing they'd forgotten to
do in the chaotic aftermath of Trepkos' departure -- the
military was not about to give her the benefit of the
doubt.

In the end it hadn't mattered anyway. They were spirited
off by helicopter to the nearest high containment facility
to undergo Level Four decontamination. Their
destination just happened to be a place where their
names were familiar and their case histories well-known.

It was, Scully thought, like being on the guest register at
a five-star hotel, with all the attention and none of the
amenities. The perdition version of Club Med.

Mulder mentioned that they'd even seen some of the
same doctors as they had when they'd been quarantined
here after their run-in with the luminous insects in
Washington's Olympic National Forest, but Scully's
recollection of the facility was fragmented and vague.
Apparently the glowing little mites had been fascinated
with their first juicy sample of a female food supply and
decided she made a much tastier snack than her male
companions. Mulder had recovered within two days,
Larry Moore a day later. She had languished in a blurry,
itchy haze of dehydration, giving the doctors no end of
grief as they tried to stabilize her fluctuating electrolytes
while soothing her irritated respiratory system. It had
been nearly a week before she'd been coherent enough to
even understand what had happened to her.

If she never saw Winthrop, Washington again, it would
be too soon.

She couldn't argue with the quarantine procedures then,
but when they'd arrived this time, she'd been floored by
their proposal concerning the length of their stay.

"A =month=?"

"Yes, Agent Scully. Thirty days minimum. Assuming you
don't show any symptoms between now and the end of
the quarantine period, of course."

"I'm not showing any symptoms now. Neither of us is.
How many times do we have to tell you, we were =not=
exposed to the fungus!"

The figure in the protective suit merely gave her a small,
empty smile and repeated, "Thirty days minimum,
barring the appearance of symptoms of contagion."

Scully had bitten her lip and restrained both her temper
and her tongue. The coolly detached scientific side of her
understood the need for caution in the face of such a
potentially deadly biohazard. If she was in this
technician's place, she would have quarantined herself,
too.

But her emotional side, which had been so badly
mangled dealing with the fallout from her abduction, had
longed to punch through the man's faceplate. To scream
and rail that she'd just lost three months of her life and
the proposition of spending another one in a confined
space was intolerable. To throw herself on the floor,
kicking her feet, pounding her fists and crying that they
couldn't do this to her, they couldn't, not now, not after
she'd just gone back to work and started to put the whole
frightening incident behind her.

That she'd rather die than waste another moment of time
she could spend living.

But Mulder had been eyeing her curiously, about to
inquire what the problem was, and even worse, a few of
the military personnel in the room had drifted closer the
minute she'd raised her voice. Further resistance would
gain her nothing other than a reputation as a
troublemaker; she'd be easily overpowered in a fight and
there was nowhere to escape, anyway.

So she'd acquiesced, although if she'd known how
uncomfortable and upsetting the daily routine would be,
she might have defied them despite the poor odds.

Their clothes had been confiscated and they'd been
supplied with fresh scrub suits of varying colors on a
daily basis. Light blue, dark blue, light green, dark green,
aqua, white, maroon and the latest hue du jour: pink. It
clashed with her hair and picked up some unflattering
skin tones in her partner, too.

Their belongings had been seized. All their bathing and
grooming needs were now supplied courtesy of the U.S.
Armed Forces. Scully had no idea what secret ingredients
made up the unlabeled bottle of shampoo in the shower
stall, but it definitely lacked a conditioner. The soap
dried out her skin and the toothpaste tasted of medicine
rather than mint.

They'd been denied access to their files on the case; she
hadn't seen her field notes since she'd climbed aboard
the helicopter. On the third day, someone had given
them a pad of plain lined paper and two pens,
instructing them to write one letter each.

"You won't be allowed to telephone or send any other
messages," the technician had said. "Your superiors
know where you are; we've contacted them. This is to
give you the chance to tell your family that you are all
right. Of course, we will censor the letter before it goes
out, to be sure it doesn't contain any classified
information."

There had been a heartbeat of silence, then both of them
had erupted in outrage.

The technician had ignored Mulder's towering fury and
Scully's scathing wrath. "I'll be back in an hour to collect
them," he said calmly, and left them sputtering angrily in
his wake.

After fifteen minutes, when nobody answered their irate
demands through the intercom, Scully slumped back to
her bunk, defeated. "We'd better write something while
we can. I doubt they'll leave the paper with us."

"Damn it," Mulder muttered. "All that work. . . all of
Trepkos' journals, his tapes, all your experiments. . . and
=nobody= is ever going to know!"

"We know."

"True." He brightened suddenly, reaching for the pad and
a pen. "I've got an idea."

When the airlock hissed open some forty minutes later,
the same technician stepped through. "All done?" he
asked.

"Yes." Stone-faced, Mulder handed him two folded sheets
of paper, one bearing the address of Margaret Scully, the
other to his mother in Connecticut.

The tech took them, then, as expected, collected the pens
and the pad as well.

They held their breath until he exited, but he didn't
notice that several more sheets had been torn from the
pad, sheets that were now secreted within Mulder's
mattress.

On them he'd hastily scrawled the only written account
they'd ever find of their time on Mount Avalon.

End part 1/9
________________________


SOLITARY CONFINEMENT (2/9)
By Jean Robinson
Disclaimer, etc. in part 1
No television, no radio. No windows. No visitors except
the blank-faced technicians who delivered and removed
their meals and the medical staff who monitored them.

Scully had expected frequent examinations; if they were
suspected of incubating a contagion it was only natural
that they be checked daily for any variation in their state
of health.

Their initial admittance had included a thorough
physical exam, blood and urine samples, and a
decontamination shower. It was then that they'd been
separated from their clothing and, still damp under their
new pale blue cotton scrubs from the shower, had been
ushered into their new accommodations.

Mulder had made some sarcastic remark about
contacting his travel agent because he'd reserved the
deluxe suite, but Scully had been too appalled to even
voice a protest as the airtight door clicked shut behind
them.

The room contained two single beds, each neatly made
up with white sheets and a navy wool blanket. A door on
one side of the room led to a blindingly white bathroom,
where two sets of towels, one navy and one green, hung.
A curtain ran the length of the room on an overhead
track between the beds. Against one wall was a small
bookcase holding a deck of cards and a few ancient
board games, but no books. A round clock fastened to
the wall above the door ticked away the minutes with
audible clicks.

That was it.

When she'd first heard how long they were to be guests of
the military, Scully's initial reaction had been, "I can't do
this." But it had been a gut instinct, easily overridden by
her training and her tendency to view the world in an
objectively mature and scientific fashion. She'd survived
some time at this facility before; she would do so again
despite her desperate desire to avoid further
confinement.

Faced with the reality of quarantine as a quasi-prisoner
rather than a true patient, all of her original misgivings
had flooded back in a tidal wave of panic.

I can't do this.

I'll never get through a month here.
I have to get out of here.

". . . this one, okay, Scully?" Mulder's voice had broken
into her frantic train of thought, disrupting her
freewheeling ride toward station stop Hysteria, end of the
line, everybody off.

"What?"

"I said, I'll take this one, okay?" He'd indicated the cot
nearer the bathroom, and, still dazed, she'd nodded her
assent.

He'd bounced on his chosen bunk, testing the mattress
for give. "I'd love to have a word with the management
about this place. Room service but no cable. Can you
believe it? How do they expect us to survive?"

Scully had nearly jumped at having her thoughts echoed
back at her and caught herself just in time. Mulder's
mock disgust at the prospect of a month without the
Spice Channel or ESPN had a grounding, calming effect
on her jangled nerves.

It meant he hadn't noticed her acute, almost
claustrophobic reaction to their surroundings.

It meant she could still hide behind a bland expression
and a cutting, cold remark, chopping his ego down to
size with a well-timed rejoinder. "Contrary to what you
may believe, Mulder, both 'Chantel' and the Knicks can
survive without you."

She woke up only once that first night. The bad dreams
had not yet secured their bulldog grip on her sleep.

Breakfast had arrived at 7:30 the next morning, the first
of a long array of bland, tasteless meals. Cereal, juice,
grapefruit, yogurt, coffee. Mulder devoured his. Scully
abruptly realized she should be hungry; she couldn't
remember when their last meal had been. But the
unappealing wheat flakes, plain yogurt and tepid coffee
failed to stir her appetite. She barely managed the juice
and the fruit.

At 9:00, the door whooshed open and two biohazard-
suited figures had stepped in, each carrying a small
black case.

"I'm Dr. Ramsey," the shorter figure announced, the
suit's microphone making her voice nasal and tinny,
"and this is Dr. Thornton. We'll be monitoring your
progress during your stay here."
In other words, we're your personal physicians and this
is the first of our many house calls to you.

Thornton reached for the curtain. "Agent Mulder? If you'll
come over to this side of the room?"

And Scully had felt the first stirrings of disquiet as
Mulder complied and Thornton yanked the drape across,
blocking him from her view and leaving her alone on her
side with Dr. Ramsey.

"Please have a seat, Agent Scully." Ramsey gestured at
the bed.

She sank down onto the cot, fighting back the vague
sense of dread. They just looked at you yesterday, she
argued with herself. You're fine. They're just going to
check your heartbeat, your temperature and your blood
pressure, look down your throat and maybe take a blood
sample. That's all.

And that =was= all. Dr. Ramsey, whose expressionless
dark brown eyes revealed nothing other than clinical
detachment behind that Plexiglas facemask, took her
vital signs and noted everything carefully on a chart.
Tested her reflexes. Checked her pupillary reaction, felt
around her throat for any unnatural protuberances, even
drew blood with professional ease and a minimum
amount of pain.

Scully relaxed a fraction.

"Please remove your pants and lie back."

"Excuse me?"

Ramsey repeated herself as if Scully literally hadn't heard
her; the woman had either been trained to ignore her
patient's dumfounded reaction or had been chosen for
her job precisely because she honestly didn't notice it.

"I just. . ." Scully seized hold of her scattered wits and
tried again, dredging up a remnant of her former voice of
authority. The voice she had yet to fully regain since
she'd awakened in a strange hospital a whole season
past her last memory. "I was given a full physical
yesterday, including a pelvic exam, with no abnormalities
reported. Surely this is unnecessary."

Dr. Ramsey merely looked at her and repeated her
request a third time.

Scully opened her mouth to protest further, but the
doctor interrupted her. "Agent Scully," she said, "it is not
up to you to decide what procedures are necessary to
establish a diagnosis concerning your possible contagion.
If you do not comply voluntarily with the full
requirements of these procedures, you will be subjected
to them involuntarily. Is that clear?"

Crystal.

Although their voices had been pitched low to preserve
the thin sense of privacy afforded by the curtain, Scully
suddenly wondered how much Mulder had overheard.

The nature of the exam he was currently enduring was
abruptly revealed when Thornton's voice rang out,
sounding very loud in the sudden silence on their side of
the boundary. "Now turn your head and cough."

It wasn't enough to make her smile, but it was enough to
make her surrender her last shred of dignity, sliding off
the baggy scrubs and lying back as instructed, steeling
herself for the unwelcome, uncomfortable invasion.

Before her abduction, a pelvic exam had been a minor
annoyance, not a cause for trembling muscles and cold,
sweaty palms.

Before her abduction, the thought of a month cooped up
with Mulder would have sent her imagination wandering
in the direction of harmless little erotic fantasies, too.

That was Before. Now, saddled with a body she could no
longer trust and the knowledge that she would be
suffering through a daily regime of personal violations at
the hands of the Army physicians, she wondered when
she'd snap.

Ramsey's final act was to hand her a new set of scrubs --
dark blue -- and demand the old ones in return. After
Scully had changed, Ramsey pulled back the curtain,
conferred briefly with Thornton, and the two had
departed without addressing their patients again.

"You look good in that color, Scully. It brings out the blue
in your eyes," Mulder commented.

She stared at him, unable to speak.

Mulder plucked at the hem of his own new dark blue top.
"Are we the Bobbsey Twins, here, or what?"

Do something, she commanded herself fiercely. Laugh,
sneer, joke back. . . say something or he's going to ask
you what's wrong.
"It feels more like the Partridge Family to me," she
responded lamely. "All we need is a velvet ruffle and a few
instruments."

"Not to shatter any of your childhood illusions, but you
do know the only one who actually played his own
instrument was David Cassidy, don't you?"

She was finally able to smile, even though it felt as
though her face were cracking. "Yes. I know."

Thus began The Routine.

Breakfast. Daily exam. Fresh scrubs. Lunch. Dinner.
Lights out. Nightmare 1. Bathroom. Nightmare 2.
Bathroom.

And so on.

In between meals and tests they napped, puffed through
some woefully inadequate calisthenics or played endless
rounds of the few games in their room, the only other
diversion available to them.

Scully lost every one.

The nightmares robbing her rest were a confusing
mishmash of her abduction and the Mount Avalon case.
Brief glimpses of Duane Barry, bright lights, murky white
figures looming over her prone body.

Pain.

Horrible, incapacitating pain.

Wanting to run, needing to run, but being unable to
move at all, trapped in a space without visible walls.

Flashes of Jesse, her throat bubbling and bulging
grotesquely as she gurgled and gulped for air. The
thunderous pounding as the grad student flailed
helplessly against the glass containment wall, followed by
a soft explosion, a thud, and ominous silence.

In her dream, Scully would suddenly feel a painful,
unnatural pressure at the base of her own throat, and
then she'd wake up.

The images from the nightmares faded immediately,
dissolving into a sticky, unreadable mess like wet
newsprint. But the choking sensation remained, the
feeling that she had been infected and was now being
strangled by a foreign growth about to puncture her
esophagus.
No wonder she woke up sweating and gagging, clawing at
her neck. One night her groping fingers had tangled with
the chain of her cross, and she'd nearly snapped the
fragile necklace before she'd come to her senses.

They'd tried to take her cross from her, too. After the
decontamination shower, the staff had noticed she was
still wearing it.

"I'll need that necklace, too, Agent Scully." The technician
had held out one gloved hand, expecting immediate
obedience. "It will be returned to you upon your
departure."

Mulder stopped them. As dense as he seemed to be now
about her current unrest, he'd had no trouble discerning
her feelings about this. Scully had stopped dead in her
tracks, one hand flying up to her neck to clutch the little
bit of gold in a protective fist.

"No," he said, quietly but firmly.

"Agent Mulder, it will be held with your badges and
weapons and other non-disposable personal items. It's a
contamination risk and I must insist. . ."

"=No=," he said again, taking a step in front of Scully.
Something dangerous glittered in his eyes, and for the
first time, the tech's confident manner faltered.

"It's a rule," he said uneasily.

"Bend it," Mulder snapped back. "She's keeping the
cross. We're not infected. I know it, you know it, and they
all know it. We'll play your game, but this is one rule
we're changing."

They let her keep it.

Eight days down, twenty-two to go. She'd never make it.

"It's your move, Scully."

She glanced back at the board balanced on the blanket
between them and saw Mulder had indeed finally
committed to his rook's position. She moved the first
piece her hand touched, edging a pawn out another
space and exposing her king. Mulder's bishop sat handily
nearby, she realized drearily; all he had to do was move it
and it would be checkmate yet again.

He didn't move to end the game, however. Instead, he
simply sat staring at her; she felt his gaze practically
burning a bald spot on the top of her head, even though
she remained with her neck bowed, glumly considering
her latest potential loss.

"Scully?" he asked, his voice deceptively soft, the tone
deceptively neutral.

Oh, God. Here it comes. The Talk.

"What?"

"Would you rather play 'Sweep'? It's a great Italian card
game I learned from a friend of mine in college. It's kind
of sexist because the jacks are worth more than the
queens, but that's Italy for you. It involves math, so you
might like it."

"No, thanks. I think I'll just go to bed." She started to
unfold her legs and swing them over the side of his cot,
wincing at the pins and needles sensation caused by
sitting cross-legged for so long.

He reached across the board and grabbed her wrist,
halting her. It wasn't a firm grip, but it was clear he
wasn't going to let her go. "Scully, talk to me."

"I'm tired, Mulder. I just want to go to sleep."

He tightened his fingers around her arm. "It would be
nice if you =could= sleep, wouldn't it?" he inquired
harshly.

Stung, she pulled her arm loose, rubbing her wrist.
"Don't start, Mulder," she muttered sullenly.

"When are you going to tell me what's the matter? You
look like hell, you spend half the night in the bathroom
and even when you're awake you're somewhere else.
Unless you let me win sixty-seven straight rounds of 'Go
Fish' on purpose to make up for some perceived
deficiency in my childhood, of course," he added
sarcastically.

"=Nothing= is the matter," she snarled venomously. "I
apologize if I've been disturbing your rest with my normal
sleep habits, not that you'd know what they are." She
turned to stalk toward the bathroom, intending to slam
the door once she got there.

Mulder was up off his bed blocking her path before she
even saw him move. His hands descended onto her
shoulders, holding her firmly in check. "Don't lie to me,
Scully," he grated through clenched teeth. "You can lie to
yourself if you want, but don't try to tell me that what
you go through at night is 'normal.' =Something= is
bothering you enough to keep you awake most of the
night, and unless you tell me what it is, I can't help you."

She struggled to free herself, but Mulder wouldn't release
her. Eyes blazing with sudden anger, she glared at him.
"I'm fine. I don't need your help. I don't want your help."

He gave her a little shake, as if she were a disobedient
child. "I don't care what you think you want or need," he
growled, leaning over her to use his superior height to its
best intimidating advantage. "Whatever it is, it's eating
you up inside and destroying you one molecule at a time.
I'm not going to stand by anymore and watch it happen,
Scully. I'm not."

That same dangerous light danced again in his eyes,
turning their warm, friendly hazel into something dark
and stormy.

This was the partner who'd faced down the emotionless
Army ciphers for the sake of her cross. The one who'd
dared Trepkos to shoot him to prevent him from running
back to the bunker to help her when he learned she was
in danger of exposure to the fungus. The one who, by all
accounts, refused to believe she was truly gone for good
when Barry kidnapped her, and subsequently refused to
give up hope when both her doctors and her family
proclaimed her to be a lost cause.

The only one who would ever go the extra mile to pry her
secrets out of her, even if he unknowingly excavated part
of her heart in the process.

The tiny room suddenly seemed far too cramped, as if its
dimensions had shrunk while they argued. Her ill-fitting
scrub suit, which drooped off her narrow shoulders and
sagged around her hips, suddenly felt tight, constricting.

Everything was too close. Especially Mulder, who loomed
over her, blocking out the light from the annoying
fluorescent overhead, near enough for her to catch the
unpleasant whiff of lye on his skin from the disgusting
Army-issue soap in their bathroom.

I want my own soap, she thought inanely. I want my own
citrus-scented soap, my own Aveda shampoo with the
body-enriching formula to prevent split ends and
moisturize my dry scalp.

I want to get out of here.

I have to get out of here.
I have to get out of here =right now=.

She wrenched free of Mulder's grip and lunged for the
intercom on the wall by the door.

End part 2/9
________________________


SOLITARY CONFINEMENT (3/9)
By Jean Robinson
Disclaimer, etc. in part 1


They'd used the communication system only once, yelling
unanswered questions and demands after they'd been
told they were to be held incommunicado. They'd
discussed whether they might be under some kind of
video or audio surveillance, and had ultimately decided
the answer was no. The Army had them neatly boxed in
their airtight cage; they didn't bear round-the-clock
monitoring.

No one had responded to their indignant shouts, but the
faint look of shame on the technician's face when he'd
returned for their letters indicated that they had been
heard. But they'd since decided against ever using the
intercom again, except in the case of an emergency.
Presumably the staff, however unwilling they might be to
supply information, had orders not to let their pet
science projects expire without intervention.

"What are you doing?" Mulder yelled.

Scully fumbled frantically with the little panel, her
stabbing fingers missing the correct button repeatedly in
her panic, breaking two nails. She barely heard her
partner, barely registered anything outside the sudden
dizziness that assailed her and turned her normally
steady hands into so much trembling uselessness.
Nothing mattered except the need to escape the room,
the dreams, the tests, the whole routine. Somewhere,
someone was hollering, "Let me out of here! I have to get
out of here!", a sentiment she echoed wholeheartedly.

Then an arm curled around her waist, and Scully found
herself hoisted off her feet and thrown forcefully on her
mattress, flat on her back. A crushing weight followed,
pinning her to the cot and pressing her wrists into the
pillow above her head.

She realized Mulder had tossed her down and now lay on
top of her with his full body weight. At the same instant
she understood that the voice demanding her release in
shrill, piercing tones had been her own.

"Scully! Scully, =stop it=!"

Now she could hear him pleading with her to calm down,
but the panic, once unleashed, refused to back down and
relinquish control to her rational side. Instead, his overt
action escalated her hysteria to the next level; she
continued screaming into his face while battling to break
his hold.

Mulder leaned in closer, placing his entire upper body
weight on her wrists, and kissed her.

He caught her mid-cry; she uttered a strangled sound
into his mouth and froze in momentary shock.

Mulder shifted his lips on hers, pressing more firmly,
sliding them until he found a comfortable angle, but
never losing contact.

Renewed panic overrode her paralysis and Scully fought
back, desperately seeking the leverage to either throw
him off or at least move her head. But her partner
allowed her neither option; if anything he seemed to
make himself even heavier, until she feared her bones
might just collapse in on themselves from the burden.

But steady and unrelenting as it was, the pressure on
her mouth was not threatening or bruising. Mulder
gently smoothed his tongue over her lips and the front
surfaces of her teeth, but made no attempt to thrust
further into her mouth, respecting her sense of space
even while maintaining the intimate connection.

Slowly, slowly, she felt the panic falter, lose its tenacious
grasp on her sanity. And then it was gone altogether,
leaving her limp and exhausted underneath him.

But not so exhausted that she didn't begin to respond, to
move her lips of her own accord to fit with his, to savor
the lingering taste of processed chocolate pudding from
their dessert that night. He'd had a double portion; she'd
handed hers over without demur when it was clear he'd
enjoy it a lot more than she would.

Mulder licked her lower lip one final time and lifted his
head, his eyes dark and unreadable from her backlit
view. "Better?" he asked, his voice more than a little
ragged around the edges.

She nodded mutely, dimly aware that she was so out of
breath she was practically panting.
Slowly withdrawing his hands from hers, Mulder placed
them on either side of her shoulders and rested his
weight on them, his lower body still firmly pressing
against her. He offered her a small, slightly embarrassed
smile. "I'm sorry, Scully. I didn't mean to scare you. But
it was either kiss you or slap you, and you would have
kicked my ass if I'd hit you."

She brought one hand down to cup his cheek. "What
makes you think I won't still kick your ass?" she inquired
huskily.

His smile broadened. "Just workin' the odds." He pushed
with his hands and rolled off her, landing on his side
facing her on the narrow bunk. "C'mere," he instructed,
pulling her shoulder until she lay flush against him, her
face pressed to his chest and her hands curled into
flimsy fabric of his top. He rested his chin on top of her
head. "You want to tell me what that was all about, now,
or are we going to go through another song and dance
routine again?" His voice vibrated through her scalp,
sending tiny frissions of warmth speeding out to her cold
hands.

"Why did you do that?"

"Do what? Kiss you?"

"No. Why did you stop me from using the intercom?"

He tugged her pliant body closer; any other time she
would have stiffened and pulled away, uncomfortable at
the prospect of sharing her personal space. Now, bone-
weary from the events of the past week and the aftermath
of her outburst, she found herself all too eager to be held
and reassured, as if she were again a small girl seeking
comfort after a nasty bout of playground name-calling.
Their legs tangled together in a cozy muddle, fitting
together surprisingly well despite the difference in length.

His top hand found its way around her back, rubbing
lazy, soothing circles across her spine, while his lower
one burrowed into her hair, cradling her skull. "If you'd
started screaming like that into the intercom, I think
they would have let you out. Under sedation, that is.
We're only good to them as long as we stay quiet and
calm and docile. I think they would have come down
here, drugged you to the gills and hauled you off to
spend the rest of your time in a little padded room that
has even fewer things to recommend it than this one
does." He gave her a little squeeze and she squeaked
involuntarily. "And then they would have had to drug me
and haul me somewhere, too, because I don't think I
could have stood by while they manhandled you like
that." He paused, then added a tentative, "Okay?"

"Hmm." She'd closed her eyes while he was talking,
feeling remarkably drowsy all of a sudden. The sweep of
his hand across her back, the thud of his heartbeat
under her ear, the sweet fresh-cotton smell of his shirt
and the furnace-like heat radiating from his body all
conspired to create a naturally soporific effect, turning
her rigid muscles to jelly and making her eyelids droop.
She started to say something, but her words melted into
a jaw-breaking yawn.

"Shh. It's all right, Scully. Just go to sleep."

Sleep. Yes. She could do that. Good idea, Mulder.

And she drifted off, relaxed in the warm, safe haven of
his embrace.

**************

(Please. Don't try to stop Duane Barry.)

(Who are you? What do you want with me? NO! DON'T!)

(Jesse? Jesse, what's wrong? Oh, my God, JESSE!)

Scully jolted awake, disoriented and chilled, her breath
lodged in her throat like a chunk of ice. Her hands flew
to her neck like startled doves, pressing in agitated haste
to locate the lump that must surely be forming, pulsing,
thrusting out to kill her. . .

"Scully?" The soft surface she'd mistaken for the wall
spoke, and the illusion vanished. There was a rustling
noise as Mulder shifted position. "You okay?"

She tried to speak and for a second could only produce a
thin, reedy whine.

"Scully?" He was sitting up now, his hands landing on
her shoulders, concern and a tiny fraction of alarm
tingeing his sleep-roughened voice. "What is it?"

Swallowing helped ease the imaginary blockage and
worked some saliva into her mouth, so that when she
attempted another effort at communication it was at
least partially understandable. "It's dark," she coughed,
sitting up as well. She remembered falling asleep with
Mulder holding her, and she'd been certain the lights
were on at the time.

"I got up and shut them off about an hour ago. You were
dead to the world."
"Why didn't you go back to your own bed after that?"

"I didn't want to leave you alone over here. Besides," he
continued, and now she could hear the teasing smile
surfacing in his voice, "this one was already all warmed
up. I hate cold sheets."

Scully lay back down, exhaling slowly. Nightmare. The
usual. But at the same time, it had lacked some of the
intensity of her previous bad dreams.

Nothing like a giant-size, live-action teddy bear to keep
the monsters under the bed at bay.

"Do you want me to go back to my own bed?"

His question was hesitant; her response instantaneous.

"No."

"All right," he agreed soothingly, and also lay back down
to face her again in the darkness.

There was a brief silence. Scully listened to her partner
breathe and tried to match her jagged respiration pattern
to his soft, even one.

He reached out to stroke her hair, brushing it back from
her forehead, and she marveled that he could accomplish
this maneuver without poking her in the eye, even
though he couldn't see her in the absolute darkness of
the room. "So. We're both awake. Like to tell me what's
going on now?" he asked wryly.

She felt the last vestiges of the dream slip away along
with constriction in her throat under his gentle
ministrations. For the first time she understood why
most dogs positively loved to be petted. "I want to go
home," she confessed in a low voice.

"I gathered that. I'm not all that thrilled to be here
myself, Scully, present company excluded."

She blinked, feeling the tears prickle at the back of her
throat and the corners of her eyes, extremely glad that he
couldn’t see her face. "I hate being confined in here for no
reason. I have so many things to do at home, so many
people I need to call or write or meet for lunch. There's
already so much mail piled up on my desk I may never
get through it all."

"You will. In twenty-two days, it'll all be over."
But maybe it wouldn't. Her greatest fear, the one she was
too terrified to admit to herself, let alone speak aloud to
Mulder, was that maybe it would never be over. That the
military would continue find one excuse after another to
keep them prisoner, keep =her= prisoner, and prevent
her from ever returning to a normal existence.

That maybe she'd gone from a three-month coma of
unconsciousness to an eternal waking one. This is your
new life, Dana Scully, nothing but this little room and
these daily tests and a few battered board games, until
the only way you can distinguish the days of the week is
by the color of your scrub suit. Pink? Hey, must be
Sunday. Citrus-scented soap? No, that's for normal
people. People with a real life. People like you get rough
white bars that don't lather and reek of chemicals. Sorry.
But you'll get used to it. Everyone does.

No. They couldn't. She couldn't.

Her imagination's ghoulish portrait of the future
threatened to smother her soul. Blindly she reached for
Mulder, desperate to blot out the vision before it
overwhelmed her.

He wrapped his arms around her, drawing her close to
his body. "It's all right, Scully. I swear it'll be all right."

"Make it go away," she murmured, despising herself for
being so weak, so needy. So afraid. For allowing the
abduction to demolish her normal self-confidence until it
seemed she'd never had any to begin with. "Make it go
away, Mulder."

He rubbed her back. "I can't. I wish I could."

She pulled back, squinting, as if that could somehow
make the darkness recede and allow her to see his
expression and him to see hers. "You can," she told him
fiercely. "You know you can." She wasn't lying; she could
feel the proof of his ability pressing firmly against her
thigh. "I want you to, Mulder."

"Scully. . . " He sounded lost, uncertain, unconvinced.

So she convinced him.

End part 3/9
________________________


SOLITARY CONFINEMENT (4/9)
By Jean Robinson
Disclaimer, etc. in part 1
Pushing him over on his back, she slid her hands up
under his loose shirt, mapping out the unfamiliar and
unseen geography of his chest with the pads of her
fingers. Impatient with the access her current position
afforded her, she threw a leg over his hips and straddled
him, shoving the hem of his shirt all the way up to his
collarbone to expose the entire expanse she wanted to
explore, even if she couldn't see it.

Mulder made a small noise as her wandering fingers
scratched delicately over his nipples. "Scully. . ."

This time she was the one who stopped his words with
her mouth.

This time she invited a reciprocal exploration by
instigating her own investigation first, learning the rough
ridges of the roof of his mouth, the soft, spongy insides of
his cheeks, the smooth, hard surfaces of his teeth. Her
tongue sent back sensory notes of taste along with
texture: the almost imperceptible tang of metallic fillings
mixed in with chocolate and salt and the unknown spice
that had flavored their dinnertime chicken, and
something that wasn't anything other than =him=, a
flavor that could not be described, only experienced.

Her hands, which had been memorizing each rib, slid up
to his face, holding him in place for the duration of the
kiss. For his part, Mulder remained passive beneath her;
although his hands had come up to rest lightly on her
hips, she sensed he had put them there more to aid her
balance than out of a desire to touch her.

She planned to remedy that state of affairs. Immediately.

But first, air. She reluctantly broke the kiss, wishing she
could see his face, wondering if his eyes were glazed or
his cheeks flushed. From the feel of his flesh under her
palms she assumed the latter was true; Mulder's face
burned as though he'd suddenly spiked a high fever.

"Scully. . . " he began for the third time, his voice now so
rusty he had to stop and swallow before he could
continue, "Scully, are you. . ."

"Yes." She leaned down and kissed him again, briefly,
running one hand through his hair. "Yes, I'm sure. Yes,
this is what I want." And you want it, too, unless I'm very
much mistaken about that lump I'm sitting on.

His hands had sneaked under her shirt and were now
gripping flesh, his thumbs tracing small circles on her
hips. She shivered.

"Are you cold?"

Considering they had, after all, fallen asleep on top of the
covers, it was not a foolish question. "No. I'm not cold
anymore," she whispered, sitting up again. "And I don't
ever want to be cold again."

"Your wish is my command." His lightly teasing comment
was the only warning she got before he shifted his hands
down and back under her pants to gently squeeze her
ass.

She jumped. "Mulder!"

"Warming up, now?" he asked wickedly, commencing a
deliciously lovely kneading massage that sent sparks
jolting up her spine.

"Toasty, thank you." For the first time since their
admittance she was happy that their two-piece uniforms
lacked matching undergarments as well. She leaned
forward to continue with her interrupted examination of
his pectoral and abdominal regions, sampling the
available selections with both fingers and mouth, while
enjoying how this adjustment in her position allowed
Mulder fuller access to the lower section of her anatomy.

For a few moments they simply touched and caressed,
his hands occasionally roaming around to smooth up
and down her thighs while hers traversed across his
shoulders, noting the spots that caused him to twitch or
sigh in satisfaction.

She was momentarily startled when he moved his hands
to her ribs and pushed her upright again, then stilled as
he continued their northward journey under the floppy
shirt to cup her breasts.

She arched her back, pressing into his touch, reveling in
the feel of his slightly rough palms on her skin. Mulder
remained motionless, apparently content to enjoy the
small rise and fall movement of her breathing.

But not for long.

Anxious for him to proceed, she'd just wrapped her
hands around his forearms to encourage him when he
carefully pressed upwards, using all ten fingertips in
turn to play a light melody across her breasts as he
flexed his palms, squeezing the tender mounds.

Scully groaned, her head falling back, her grip tightening
involuntarily around his arms. "Oh, God. . ."

He chuckled, a low, throaty sound that thrilled her
almost as much as his touch did. "I'd say you're =very=
warm, now, Scully."

You have no idea, she thought hazily. Then again, he
probably did. Warm was hardly the operant word here.
She knew for a fact that the room temperature was
regulated at a steady seventy degrees, but she would
have sworn the mercury was now pushing into the
nineties.

And then his thumbs brushed across her nipples, and
she amended that figure by another ten degrees.

At some point she'd started shifting restively on his lap,
grinding against his erection, and now he was lifting his
hips to meet her, heat upon heat, separated only by two
thin layers of cotton.

"Mulder. . . please. . ." Was that her? Had she just
=begged= him for something?

He pinched her nipples lightly, rolling them between his
thumb and forefinger. "You're beautiful, Scully."

"You. . . you can't even see me," she panted, her head
snapping forward as a new flood of sharp, prickling
sensations seared a path from her breasts to the
juncture of her thighs from his latest display of dexterity.

"I can see all I need to like this." He traced around her
aroelas to emphasize his point, making her suck in her
breath in reaction. "I don't need my eyes to see the truth
in this case."

God, she had to remember to breathe or she'd faint from
lack of oxygen. But heaving for air didn't drive away the
pleasant giddiness she was currently experiencing, nor
did she want it to. Still, she yelped in surprise when
Mulder abruptly flipped her onto her back, a throwback
to his actions earlier in the day.

He stroked the side of her face with one hand and kissed
her gently. "Scully. . ." he rumbled hesitantly.

She looped her arms around his neck. "What?"

"I know the bathroom's equipped to handle most of our
basic hygiene emergencies, but I don't think the
management was planning on this particular scenario."

"Are you sick?"
"No."

"Neither am I. So don't worry about it."

"But. . ." he paused again, and she loved him for it even
though she wasn't about to let him off the hook.
"Pregnancy. . ."

"Is unlikely right now, so don't worry about that, either,"
she finished for him. She didn't want to dwell on that last
souvenir from her abduction; the meeting with her
doctors upon her release from the hospital had included,
among other things, a detailed discussion about her
hormone levels. Apparently they were skewed wildly off-
kilter, leading the medical team to believe that conceiving
a child would be difficult, if not impossible, for her until
they settled back to normal.

"You're sure?"

She nodded, knowing he could feel the motion even if he
couldn't see it. "Very."

"In that case. . ." His hand drifted lower to finger the
neckline of her top. "What do you say we get rid of all
this?"

"Are you saying we're finally overdressed for something in
this place?"

He grasped the hemline of her shirt and drew it smoothly
up and over her head. "That's what I like about you,
Scully. You catch on fast. Must be all that scientific
training." He flicked his arm sideways, slinging the shirt
out of the way.

His hands settled on her breasts again, and she batted
them away before she lost the ability and the desire to do
so. "Fair's fair, Mulder."

He laughed and let her pull off and discard his shirt as
well, then seized her wrists.

"Hey!"

"Is for horses, Scully, although I must admit you're one
mighty fine little mare."

"Mulder, comparing me to a farm animal is hardly the
accepted method of sweet talk."

He pressed her wrists down beside her head and held
them there, and she quelled a brief flare of panic at the
restraint. "That's okay, because I don't plan on talking
much anymore."

She squirmed, once again cursing the darkness and her
own insecurities. "Mulder, what are you. . .oh!" The rest
of the sentence was lost in a soft, breathless exhalation
as his mouth closed over her left nipple.

Oh, God. That felt =wonderful=.

He nipped gently at the tip, then mumbled, "Am I talking
too much for you?"

"Don't. . . yes. . . no. . ."

She could feel him smiling against her skin, then he
resumed his previous activity.

And Scully was lost, utterly lost, in the feel of his warm,
wet lips caressing her breast, his tongue glancing over
her nipple, his teeth nibbling a tickling trail all the way
around. The bad dreams vanished, the walls of their cell
vanished, everything vanished in the wake of that
glorious, spine-tingling suction.

She only noticed he'd released her arms when he brought
his fingers into the equation, brushing his palm over her
other nipple and starting a corresponding massage.

By the time he switched sides to give her other breast the
same oral attention, her hands had found their way to
his head, twining in his hair, encouraging and guiding
his motions.

Maybe the no underwear situation wasn't such a good
thing after all. The area between her thighs felt distinctly
damp.

Maybe tomorrow she'd worry about that.

Right now the rough scrape of his stubbled cheek as he
rubbed it along the side of her breast like a cat nuzzling
its owner was all Scully could focus on. She twisted her
hips restlessly, rolling her head from side to side as
Mulder coaxed another soft moan from her.

He finally lifted his head and pressed his mouth against
hers, sweeping his tongue thoroughly around the interior
and finishing with a gentle suck on her lower lip. "You
ready for more conversation, Scully?" he inquired
hoarsely. "Want to convene a research seminar?"

She grinned wickedly and rapidly ran her fingers down
his sides, slipping them under his drawstring waistband.
And further.

Mulder grunted as her warm fist closed around her
target, squeezing lightly, as if testing him for ripeness in
the same manner that one tested melons in the grocery
store. "Nice opening statement," he gasped.

"Wait until you hear my closing argument." She slid her
hand gently up his full length, stroking over the tip with
the pad of her thumb.

Mulder uttered a low groan and dropped his head to rest
his forehead on her collarbone. "Scully. . ."

"Yes? Do you have something to add to the discussion,
Agent Mulder?" She let her other hand ease in to cup his
balls and he thrust reflexively into her fist.

"I was going. . . to request a recess. . . to get out of the
rest of these clothes." He finished the statement in a rush
as she applied more pressure to her stroke.

"Not a bad idea. Permission granted." She pulled her
arms free to shimmy the remaining half of the scrub suit
off while Mulder sat up to do the same.

In a way Scully was glad he had called a brief time-out to
the action. Relaxed and comfortable as she was, she
needed a minute of mental preparations. Her roaming
fingers had confirmed what she'd suspected since the
beginning: her partner was well-endowed. Nothing
excessive, nothing abnormal, but he wasn't lacking. And
it wouldn't have caused her any concern but for the
knowledge that she was not only smaller than average,
but hadn't participated in this particular hobby for quite
some time.

Thus the need for a deep, cleansing breath at half-time,
such as it were. In through the nose, out through the
mouth.

Better. Much better. Especially when the intake included
the earthy, musky scent of her sweat mixed with his, a
definite improvement over the usual odorless, canned air
in this place.

Mulder wrestled out of his pants and knelt next to her,
his fingers gliding lightly from her face to her neck and
down her arms to clasp her hands.

"What are you doing?"

"Just what I said. Research." He squeezed her hands and
traveled back up her arms, igniting sparks every place he
touched.

Down over her breasts, lingering fleetingly over her
nipples, fluttering over her ribs as though he were
playing a xylophone. Skating over her rounded abdomen
without pausing, as if aware of her dismay and
embarrassment about the amount of weight she'd gained
as a result of her abduction. The details of her captivity
remained a mystery; one of the few definite conclusions
anyone could draw was that she'd most likely been
inactive the entire time.

Her legs eased apart of their own accord; she shut her
eyes and gripped a handful of blanket in anticipation of
his next move.

Mulder postponed the inevitable for a few more
breathless minutes, taking the time to trail lazily down
her legs to her feet and back up, stopping once to rub
behind her knees as she jerked and sighed in response.

She was going to kill him if he didn't hurry up. Kill him
or simply burst into flame, engulfing both the bed and
her partner. Come to think of it, was this room equipped
with a smoke detector? And if so, why hadn't it gone off
yet?

Then he ran his fingers up the inside of her thigh and
slipped between her folds, and all random thoughts of
household appliances were driven from her mind in a
dazzling flash.

"=Oh=!"

"Nice opening statement," he teased, "but I'm more
interested in your closing argument."

"Just. . . don't. . . oh, yes, just like that. . ." She couldn't
believe how fast he'd reduced her to a babbling idiot. But
what the man was doing with two fingers should be
considered illegal. Then he added a third, rubbing his
thumb gently over her clitoris, and she shamelessly
pressed up against his hand.

One finger slid inside her, and she moaned. Mulder
added a second, crossing it over the first to add an extra
dimension of friction as he smoothly worked them in and
out. About every third stroke he grazed a certain spot
inside her, making her toes curl and sending electrifying
waves of pleasure radiating up through her body.

She yanked the blanket loose from under the mattress
when he circled over her clit again. "Mulder. . ." The
whispered entreaty was barely audible, but her partner
heard it just the same. He slipped his hand from her
body and kissed her, lowering himself over her and
nudging her legs farther apart with one knee.

"Conversation over, Agent Scully?" he murmured against
her mouth.

She writhed under him, savoring the blazing heat of his
body pressed to hers, the additional solid warmth of his
erection caged against her stomach. "Conversation over,"
she agreed breathlessly, smoothing her hands up his
arms to link them behind his neck.

Mulder shifted slightly, adjusting his stance, and she felt
the blunt, firm nudge of his cock at her entrance. He
pressed forward slightly; she pushed up with her hips to
meet his tentative thrust.

"You're not going to hurt me," she assured him when he
withdrew for another attempt. "I'm tougher than I look."

Mulder leaned down and kissed the tip of her nose. "You
don't have to tell me that. I figured that out on Day One."

And this time he thrust forward steadily, pushing past
the initial resistance of her body to slide in all the way,
groaning as he did so, resting his forehead on her
shoulder as he stopped and waited.

That felt. . . oh, God.

The short, stabbing ache she'd felt at his invasion
dissolved into warmth, fullness. Contentment. Peace. As
if she'd taken not just one organ into her body, but
Mulder's entire being, adding his strength to hers,
melding their thoughts and feelings into one magnificent
cohesive blur.

Scully sighed and wrapped her legs around his thighs.
"Mulder," she whispered.

With an effort he raised his head and responded by
kissing her on the nose again. Then he began to move,
setting a rhythm that was both gentle and slow.

And Scully's pleasantly hazy, warm serenity exploded in
pain.

Excruciating pain, nothing like the quick spike that came
from accepting him into her body, but sharp bolts of
agony. Pain that could not be attributed to the languid,
easy pace Mulder had established as he rocked above
her.
Pain unlike anything she'd ever experienced in her life
with her previous lovers, but which caused her to bite
down on her own lip to stifle her cry and forced
unwanted tears to seep from the corners of her eyes.

Pain that became unbearable by Mulder's fourth smooth
stroke.

End part 4/9
________________________


SOLITARY CONFINEMENT (5/9)
By Jean Robinson
Disclaimer, etc. in part 1


Unable to control the sudden trembling in her legs, she
let them slip down and concentrated on moving one
shaking hand to his chest. Her blood, which only
seconds ago had been rushing through her body at an
internal boil, now felt replaced by a fluid form of ice.
"Mu-Mulder?" she choked, striving to repress the quiver
in her voice and not quite making it.

Alerted by either her tone or her touch, he stopped mid-
thrust, and Scully fought to suppress a whimper.

"Scully? What's wrong?" he wheezed raggedly.

Not fair, this is not fair, she wanted to scream. I can't do
this to him! I can't do this to me!

But she had to. The pain had not backed off with the
cessation of his thrusts; it remained a constant,
wracking throb, broadcasting serious injury signals to
every section of her body. For the first time in her life, all
her education failed her; there was no way to
communicate her situation without scarring him in the
process.

And even if there was a way, she had no time to think of
it. Not when she was holding on to consciousness
through sheer force of will.

"You have to stop. You're. . . you're hurting me."

Mulder reared back as if stung. "I'm. . . Scully, what?"

"=Please=," she begged, her voice now as watery as her
eyes. She pushed feebly against his chest, unable to
muster the strength to move him a fraction, but Mulder
got the message loud and clear. He jumped off her and
off the narrow bunk in one galvanic lunge, falling to his
knees on the hard linoleum floor.

The minute his weight lifted, Scully automatically curled
into a ball on her side, drawing her knees up to her chest
and lowering her head to hide her face, obeying some
primal protective behavior of the wounded.

As a little girl, she'd understood that compressing herself
into a tight little package could make all the hurts go
away. It helped when Bill gave her an Indian rub, when
Charles yanked her braids or when she fell off her bike
and scraped both knees bloody.

It didn't help now. If anything the agony increased,
blending with nausea as her stomach joined in the
rebellion.

Oh, damn it, now she was going to throw up on top of
everything else.

Get to the bathroom. You can make it to the bathroom.

She repeated the words to herself as she struggled to her
feet, panting harshly, cold sweat coating her face in a
greasy film and running between her breasts in chilling
rivulets. Somewhere in the darkness it sounded like
Mulder was pounding on the walls; she could hear him
thumping around but couldn't spare the energy to
wonder what the hell he was doing.

Her shaking legs threatened to buckle with every inching,
lurching baby step. She blundered into something soft
and yielding; slapped at it with one hand while the other
remained wrapped around her stomach in a vain attempt
to hold in the pain.

The curtain. The idiotic curtain in the middle of the
room. Scully wrenched at it, overbalanced, and fell
forward as the cloth popped off the overhead track and
billowed down on top of her, enveloping her in its cool
folds.

Dazzling light suddenly speared her eyes, adding a new
pain to the lengthening list of woes.

Mulder had found the overhead switch. That's what all
the banging had been. He turned as she lay blinking
groggily amid the tangles of tan fabric, took a step toward
her with outstretched arms, then froze.

"You're bleeding," he whispered in horror.

What?
Wincing, she pushed the curtain off her legs and, like her
partner, was stunned into utter immobility.

Blood.

Yes, she was bleeding. A lot. An alarming amount, in
fact.

Menstrual cycle, her rational side whispered, desperately
seeking to restore order and reason to her universe with
a logical explanation.

No. With what she'd been told after her abduction, her
normal menses wouldn't manifest itself for quite some
time yet.

Internal hemorrhage. Serious internal hemorrhage.

Possibly fatal.

The pain seemed to be easing slightly, but Scully
recognized that as a danger sign rather than a relief. She
was going into shock, shivering uncontrollably as her
body failed to maintain its normal temperature.

Mulder dived for the intercom. Yelling. She couldn't
understand what he was saying and closed her eyes.

Something soft and warm settled over her. Mulder had
ripped the blanket from the bed and covered her with it.
"Stay with me, Scully," he shouted in her ear. "Come on,
talk to me!"

I can't. I'm sorry, Mulder, but I can't.

"Open your eyes, damn it! Come on, Scully help me
here!" He grabbed her hand and squeezed it. Hard. She
uttered a coughing, choked sound and that seemed to
reassure him. "Hang on, help's on the way."

I don't think so, Mulder.

She didn't hear the distinctive hiss of the door opening,
but suddenly there were other people in the room, other
voices added to the cacophony, with Mulder's strident
tones rising above them all.

Someone lifted her, jarring her back to semi-awareness
where the pain reigned supreme, and she cried out in
misery.

"You're hurting her!"
"Agent Mulder, for the last time, =stand back=."

"Where the hell are you taking her?"

"The emergency ward. Now get out of the way!"

The arms holding her released, dumping her onto
something firm and padded. She reached out one
searching hand for Mulder, but her arm was pushed
back to her side. "Don't move," a voice ordered.

The journey was quick, ending in a brightly lit place. She
rolled her head to one side and managed to open her
eyes again, squinting in the harsh glare.

She lay naked on her back on a cold, unforgiving surface.

White-suited figures surrounded her.

One of the figures moved to the end of the exam table
and pushed her legs apart, and suddenly the pain
exploded anew as the figure thrust something inside her
body. Scully screamed in anguish as shockwaves raved
up from her abdomen, the exact spot that had so
recently given her such glorious pleasure now turning
traitor and becoming the focal point of her torment.

Another amorphous being leaned over her, hovering.
"Agent Scully? Can you hear me?" he asked, just as the
one between her legs did something else to ratchet the
torturous pain a notch higher.

Her eyes flew open; her throat muscles locked and she
couldn't even wail out her distress this time. Instead, her
frantic gaze settled on the looming figure, whose Asian
features were clearly distinguishable at this close
distance even behind the broad, clear faceplate in his
suit hood.

(Bright lights.)

(A table.)

(Men with Asian eyes.)

(Pain.)

No.

=NO=.

NOT AGAIN.

Her paralysis broke; Scully thrashed wildly on the
narrow surface, swinging and kicking blindly at the
shapeless forms that surrounded her. This time she was
not going quietly. This time, no matter what the outcome,
she was taking some of them down with her.

Pandemonium erupted.

"Jesus Christ!"

"Hold her down! Hold her down, damn it, or we'll lose
her!"

"Ramsey! Get Ramsey!"

She struggled halfway up, clawing at anyone who got
within range, when they all seemed to attack at once.
Invisible hands grabbed her wrists, slamming her arms
back to her sides. Others pinned her at the shoulders,
forced her legs down.

A hard, plastic mask clamped down over her nose and
mouth. She knew what was coming, tried not to inhale,
but in the end it was useless. A sharp-smelling gas filled
her lungs, numbed her body and stilled her flailing
limbs.

The last thing she felt was a piercing jab in her arm, and
then everything was dark and quiet.

End part 5/9
________________________


SOLITARY CONFINEMENT (6/9)
By Jean Robinson
Disclaimer, etc. in part 1


The subdued, rhythmic beep was the first thing that
caught her attention. Must have forgotten to turn off the
snooze alarm, she thought blearily. Hope I'm not too late
for work.

"Agent Scully?"

That voice. It was very familiar, yet filled her with an
unnamed dread. Because she was quite certain that
voice had no place in her bedroom.

"Agent Scully, are you awake?"

Focus, Dana. If that is A.D. Skinner, then this is
probably not your bedroom. Open your eyes and guess
again.
So she obeyed the nagging internal voice, slowly blinking
back to full consciousness, taking in the bizarre vision of
her superior standing next to her bed in a white
biohazard suit.

Containment suits. The Winthrop facility. Month-long
quarantine. Oh, yes, I remember now.

And then she snapped to total awareness as the rest of
the story fell into place with a thud so loud she was
surprised Skinner didn't hear it and inquire about the
noise.

"Agent Scully?"

"Yes, sir," she croaked. "I'm awake."

Skinner was a hard person to read without the additional
shadows cast over his face by the hood of the suit.
Between the glare of the wide faceplate and the glitter off
his glasses, she had no way to discern his mood now,
and his voice wasn't giving her any clues, either.

"How do you feel?"

Taken aback at the personal question from the man who
had up to now treated her with respect but emotional
detachment, Scully paused to take stock.

The pain was a faded echo of its earlier majesty, probably
dulled by the drugs that were now fogging her vision and
making the room tilt slightly as well as stealing the
moisture from her mouth and the lining of her throat.
She was "resting comfortably," as the medical profession
would put it, except for the lingering ache in the crook of
her elbow where an IV line was embedded.

And the fact that sturdy, white fabric restraint belts were
snugged around her wrists, securing her to the silver
bedrails.

Scully stared at them in disbelief and tried to move her
arm. Nothing. No give at all. She couldn't sit up, roll over,
or change position beyond scooting further under the
blankets.

Skinner followed her astonished gaze and cleared his
throat. "According to the doctors in charge of your case,
you became violent and had to be restrained in order to
be safely treated."

"Get them off."
"Agent Scully. . ."

"Sir." She twisted her neck to look up at him, trying to
see beyond the two barriers of glass to look directly into
his eyes. It was difficult to produce a calm, sensible tone
when her throat and mouth felt as if they'd been
vacuumed dry, but she managed, she thought, to sound
convincing. "I'm all right now. I was in a great deal of
pain when they were attempting to help me. I was not
fully cognizant of my actions at that time."

Skinner tilted his head, seeming to consider her words.
"I'll get your doctor," he said finally, and left the room.

While he was gone, Scully glanced around as best she
could to survey her new surroundings. Physically, it was
about the same size as the room she shared with Mulder,
except this one had a large amount of bulky medical
equipment piled around the bed. The steady beep that
had dragged her from her sleep belonged to a heart
monitor.

The door opened, and one suited figure entered. Too tall
for Dr. Ramsey, too short for Skinner.

The Asian man.

He smiled, immediately knocking her off guard. Nobody
smiled in this place. Ever.

"Afternoon, Agent Scully. Feeling better today?"

He sounded so cheerful, so friendly that for a moment
she couldn't think how to respond. "I. . . I do, thank you."

"You look better than the last time I saw you." The man
rested his arms on the bedrails, as if he'd just dropped
by for a congenial little chat around the water cooler with
a co-worker. At close range, she realized he was even
younger than she was, perhaps someone fresh out of
medical school, working off his Army scholarship. "I'm
Dr. Sakamoto," he continued affably. "We were worried
about you. We thought we were going to lose you there
for a while."

It might be a trap. His whole sociably amenable attitude
might just be some new form of test; perhaps she was
now the main lab rat in some experiment to determine
the affects of long-term isolation. But on the chance that
Sakamoto was what he seemed to be, the only person in
the Winthrop facility with even a modicum of personality,
Scully asked the question, knowing that the wrong
answer might be unendurable.
"Could you take these off, please?"

He glanced down at her fidgeting fingers, and for a long,
horrible moment she was absolutely certain she would be
denied her freedom, that Sakamoto would just say, "No,
I'm afraid people like you have to stay tied up for the rest
of their time here." In her mind, she'd already heard the
words.

"You're not going to hit me again, are you?" he queried, a
curious mix of amusement and admiration coloring his
tone.

"No." She stared at him warily, unsure whether he was
truly teasing her or subjecting her to some kind of
psychological exam in disguise.

"Under normal circumstances, I'd make you cross your
heart and hope to die, but I think we can skip that
today." He reached down and with a few judicious tugs
she was loose.

She gingerly rubbed her wrists to restore the circulation,
carefully avoiding making any sudden moves that might
alarm him and summon subduing reinforcements. He
was still watching her for some kind of reaction, she
could tell; Mulder had been right. One wrong move and
they would sedate her into submission.

Taking a deep breath, Scully eased herself upright.
"Thank you," she said softly.

"You're welcome. Do you mind if I take a look at you?"

Startled, she blinked. "You're the first person who's
asked, you know."

"Yeah, well, I haven't been here that long." He grinned.
"My colleagues don't have much of a bedside manner,
but truthfully, I think they're all afraid of you now."

He checked her vital signs and looked down her throat.
"All systems go, Agent," he announced, snapping the
tongue depressor in half and dumping it into a trash bin,
"but I suppose you really want to know what happened to
you."

She nodded, gripping the top sheet tightly. The phantom
gagging sensation from her dreams rose up unbidden
and she swallowed hard to dispel it.

"We don't know exactly how it happened, because we
weren't there, so this is just a guess." Behind the broad
expanse of his hood's faceplate, his eyes were shrewd.
"You and Agent Mulder were having a little late-night
dalliance, were you not?"

They'd been found naked, and she'd been bleeding. Of
course they'd know. But it was still somewhat galling to
have this trendy young man with his spiky haircut and
diamond stud earring blurt it out, even if he didn't seem
to care one way or the other how she and Mulder
entertained themselves in their little cell. Scully realized
her hands were twisting together in nervous knots in her
lap and made them stop.

"Okay. That's not my business really. When we came in
you were bleeding heavily from the vagina, so we brought
you down to surgery to see what was going on."

"I'm a medical doctor, too. I understand the protocol."

"Well, there isn't much more to the story. What we found
was scar tissue that had been disturbed by your recent. .
. activity. A large amount of scar tissue, actually, in the
vaginal canal and the uterus. It wasn't something that
Dr. Ramsey had noted in your chart, because we weren't
really looking for that during your daily exams. All your
tissue samples were normal. Once we had you stabilized,
we were able to remove most scar tissue with laser
surgery. You're lucky; we've got a ton of fancy gadgetry
here for all sorts of nifty procedures. You're going to be a
little sore for a while, but you should heal without
complications. As far as we can tell, you shouldn't
experience a recurrence of the problem."

Dizzying relief swept over her, leaving her more light-
headed than could be accounted for by the medication
alone. As he had described their findings, she'd felt a
bottomless pit opening beneath her, ready to swallow her
whole at the prospect of having her sexuality snatched
away from her, too, when she'd already lost so much of
her life in the past year.

At least they'd spared her this. The damage they'd
caused in this instance had not been permanent,
although whether that was by chance or design she
would never know.

Sakamoto was speaking again, and she forced herself to
concentrate.

"You lost a lot of blood, so you'll feel a little weak for a
while. And we've got you on some fairly heavy painkillers
for now."

"How long do I have to stay here?"
For the first time since his entrance, Sakamoto became
evasive. His let's-be-pals grin faltered just a bit, and he
dropped his hands from the bedrails and stepped back.
"Let's just see how you feel tomorrow, all right? You've
been unconscious for over thirty hours, so why rush
things?"

"=Thirty hours=?" When he'd said, "Afternoon," she'd
assumed it was the afternoon of the same day.

"I said we almost lost you, Agent Scully. I wasn't
kidding."

More than a day. She'd been out cold for more than a
day. Scully brought her hand up to the base of her throat
in a gesture of disbelief, her fingers automatically
searching for her cross and its familiar sharp points for
reassurance.

It wasn't there.

"We had to take it off before you tore it off. Your boss has
it." Sakamoto answered the unspoken question, perhaps
sensing the panic ebbing beneath her furtive scrabbling.
"He wants to talk to you."

She let her hand drop. "Thank you."

"Sure. I'll be back later to check on you again. Don't go
anywhere."

In the five minute interlude before Skinner returned,
Scully suddenly wondered why her superior was there at
all. Surely he hadn't flown three thousand miles across
the country to visit her sickbed with a bouquet of flowers
or a box of chocolates. He hadn't been among the dozens
of Bureau visitors parading through her hospital room
after her abduction. He'd expressed his formal
condolences but nothing more when her father died,
never even questioning her appearance at the office that
day.

A.D. Skinner didn't make housecalls, so to speak.

Unless they'd been lying to her all along and she was
infected.

And therefore dying. Along with Mulder.

The gruesome possibility so deadened her nerves that
when Skinner did come back in, she was gaping at the
wall with glazed eyes and slack features, her hands limp
on the covers and her mouth slightly open.
"Agent?"

She snapped back to attention, reacting to the military
inflection in his tone, so similar to her father's when she
was growing up. It was a nuance that brooked no
argument, no question of disobedience. Melissa had
eventually rebelled, but even she retained some of the
habits and traits instilled by their father's form of
command.

"Yes, sir?"

"You spoke with Dr. Sakamoto?"

"Yes, sir." Scully hesitated, then added quietly, "He
informed me that you have my cross, sir."

"Here." Skinner held it out, a gleaming little puddle of
gold heaped in the palm of his white-gloved hand. Scully
scooped it up and fastened it around her neck, taking
comfort and strength from its slight weight.

If he was about to tell her she and Mulder had mere days
to live, she would need it.

"Agent Scully, you are an agent under my supervision.
What you do on your personal time is neither my concern
nor my interest, unless it affects your job performance."

What was he talking about?

"I was contacted by the commander of this facility and
informed that you had suffered a serious accident. One
that bordered on life-threatening. And that the
circumstances of this accident were of a suspicious and
alarming nature. He requested that I come out to
question you personally and advise him of how to
proceed with the remainder of your quarantine period."

"Sir?" It must be the medication, she thought wildly, that
was making this all seem so muddled and confused, like
a jigsaw puzzle she'd had as a child of Disney's 101
Dalmatians. There were spots everywhere, and it was
next to impossible to figure out which spots belonged to
which dog. Skinner wasn't making any more sense than
that long-ago brain-teaser had.

Only she couldn't donate him to a rummage sale, the
way she'd finally dealt with Pongo, Perdita and all their
irritatingly identical offspring.

The double layer of glass didn't dilute his stern
expression this time. His eyes bored through her; she
involuntarily stiffened her spine in preparation for his
next statement. As baffling as the conversation was, it
clearly had nothing to do with any possible contagion,
and she feared the real heart of the matter might be
something far worse than death by fungus.

"Agent Scully, you and Agent Mulder were engaged in
sexual relations immediately prior to your injury,
correct?"

Time, the universal invariant, did not stand still. It
transported her back to third grade, standing before
Sister Catherine and stuttering that yes, she'd been the
one to upset the holy water font after confessions that
morning, blushing to the tips of her ears and rumpling
the pleats in her plaid skirt in her fists, certain she'd be
damned to Hell for eternity for this mortifying
transgression. It was all she could do now to maintain
eye contact with her superior; even the knowledge that
such relationships, while frowned upon, were not
prohibited did nothing to temper her chagrin. "Yes, sir."

Skinner's next question stunned her to speechlessness.
"Was this a consensual act?"

Scully's eyes widened and her mouth dropped open as
the full implications behind his query hit her with the
force of an openhanded slap. "Sir?" she managed, nearly
strangling on the simple one-syllable word.

Skinner lowered his chin slightly and frowned, as if her
failure to answer properly the first time was in itself some
sort of confirmation of his awful conjecture. "Was this a
consensual act, Agent Scully, or did Agent Mulder hurt
you?"

The lighting in the room remained steady, but Scully's
vision went briefly to black regardless. She'd heard and
understood him correctly, however much she hadn't
wanted to believe it.

They thought Mulder had assaulted her.

No. They weren't sure, and they didn't want to be
responsible for any legal ramifications down the road,
possibly haunting them and their funding for years to
come. So they'd called in Skinner to set the matter to
rest.

Later, when she alone and able to separate her frayed
emotions from the equation and analyze it with a certain
amount of distance and perspective, she would
understand and sympathize with the facility
commander's view. For now, nothing mattered except the
overpowering need to convince her superior that his
suspicions about Mulder were blatantly untrue.

Time to grab for all those lost bits of confidence, summon
every reserve of conviction and authority that had been
left by the wayside after Duane Barry had stolen her out
of her own home and somehow reduced her former
standing of strength and competence in the eyes of this
man.

"It was a consensual act. Sir." She spoke steadily,
making direct eye contact, refusing to blink, flinch or
allow her body to engage in any kind of nervous tic that
might diminish or negate the certainty of her words.

Skinner held her gaze with his, daring her to crack under
his scrutiny. "You're sure about that, Agent Scully?" he
inquired, intimating that if she wanted to change her
story, it was now or never.

"Yes, sir," she responded firmly. Part of her longed to
continue, to go on and fully exonerate Mulder. But she
knew it would be a mistake. Skinner had surely received
a medical report from her doctors; there was nothing new
she could tell him about her condition. Unlike the people
at the facility, however, Skinner also knew about her
recent health crisis. He was not a stupid man. He could
put two and two together the same way she had, and
understand that whatever had happened had been the
ultimate result of her abduction, not her partner's
intimate attentions.

So she answered only his questions   without offering
qualifying explanations, as if she   were testifying in a
court case with a defense attorney   who was just waiting
for her to run on and talk herself   into a contradictory
statement.

Skinner pursed his lips, regarding her silently for a long,
uncomfortable moment. Scully stared back at him
somewhat defiantly, holding her hands still and flat on
her thighs, trying to breathe normally.

"You're saying I may tell the commander that when
you've recovered, you wish to be returned to the room
you have been occupying with Agent Mulder for the
duration of your quarantine period?" Last chance, Agent.
Very last chance.

"That is correct, sir."

"Very well. I'll see you back in Washington when you've
been officially discharged from here." Skinner turned to
leave.
"Sir?"

He looked back over his shoulder. "What, Agent Scully?"

She swallowed convulsively, hoping he couldn't hear the
dry click in her throat. "Did you speak to Agent Mulder
about this already?"

"Yes, I did. I interviewed him while you were still
unconscious."

"What did he say?"

Skinner turned around, and his face was completely
devoid of all expression. "Agent Mulder consistently
refused to defend himself. He merely stated that you
would provide any necessary answers to my questions,
and that I was to interpret your version of events as the
official record of my investigation into this matter."

"Oh." Scully's voice was small and stunned. That he had
such faith in her as to risk a rape charge was more than
humbling, it was unbelievable.

And frightening. Mulder was already eaten up with guilt
that he had not only failed to protect his little sister, but
also his younger, junior partner from abductions by
unknown parties with nefarious agendas. Now he
apparently thought his actions had resulted in her
injuries, no matter how clear she'd been about
welcoming his advances.

End part 6/9
________________________


SOLITARY CONFINEMENT (7/9)
By Jean Robinson
Disclaimer, etc. in part 1


Two days later, they deemed her well enough to be
released from the infirmary section and sent back to her
former room.

Mulder was   sitting on his bed playing solitaire when they
opened the   door to escort her back in; he leaped to his
feet as if   his mattress had suddenly goosed him with an
electrical   charge, scattering cards every which way.

Scully stood up from the wheelchair, grateful to be on
her own two feet again. No amount of arguing or pleading
had budged them from their insistence that she make
the trip sitting down. She'd threatened to stand up and
walk away, and Sakamoto had threatened right back to
belt her in and tie her arms down. Furious, she'd given
in, calling him every rude name she could dredge up
from her extensive Navy repertoire. Sakamoto pushed her
along, blithely responding, "Yeah, yeah, and my mother
wears Army boots," to each of her jibes.

Two days of enforced bedrest had left her feeling frailer
than ever. She was anxious to get back to some sort of
exercise routine, however mild or spatially limited. At this
rate, she wouldn't be fit to maintain her field status when
she got back to D.C.

"All set, Agent Scully?" Sakamoto turned the chair
around.

"Thank you, yes." Her eyes were on Mulder, who was
staring at her as if he'd never seen her before.

"Been a pleasure. I don't know how I'll occupy myself
now that you won't be around to sneer at me anymore.
Take care, now."

He left, and they were alone, separated by a distance of
six floor tiles and one thousand miles.

Mulder broke the silence. "You're out of sync."

"What?" She cocked her head in confusion, then   got it.
Mulder had revolved through the clothing color   cycle
back to dark green in the time that she'd been   gone,
while she'd remained garbed in hospital white.   "Oh. Well,
so much for the Bobbsey Twins."

"Scully, I. . ." he stopped, making a small, futile-looking
gesture with his hands, as if he wanted to touch her but
didn't quite dare.

She took three steps forward and wrapped her arms
around him, laying her cheek against her chest. "Don't.
I'm fine. Don't apologize. You have nothing to be sorry
about."

His arms found their way around her back, hugging
cautiously, tentatively, as if afraid he might crush or
bruise her. His voice was muffled against her hair. "I'm
sorry I hurt you."

"You didn't." Scully pulled back to pin him with a
ferocious glare. "You didn't do this, Mulder. =They= did
it. The people who took me, whoever they were. This was
not an issue before my abduction." Which was, she
realized too late, a rather crude way of informing him
that she'd slept with other men, but under the
circumstances, she didn't think Mulder would be too
bothered by her admission.

"They wouldn't tell me anything," he said softly, one hand
moving to stroke her hair, the motion seeming to
reassure him that she was indeed okay. "All they would
say was that you were all right, but they never told me
what happened. Jesus, Scully, there was so much blood.
. ."

As the staff hadn't been particularly forthcoming about
anything, including such insignificant items as the
weather, since they'd been here, she figured Mulder had
been kept in the dark about the details of her condition.
She imagined he had been half out of his mind with
worry, magnifying the damage until he had her lying
comatose in a secure location, never to recover.

Again.

"Let's sit down," she urged, tugging him over to his bed.

The clinical recitation didn't take long, nor did her tale of
Skinner's visit and her remarks to him. Then she
demanded he explain his apathetic response to the
Assistant Director's interrogation.

"It wasn't my place to second-guess you, Scully."

"Bullshit," she snapped angrily. "I was a full-fledged
participant that night, and you know it. For God's sake,
Mulder, I came on to you; you should be the one filing
sexual harassment charges. If you don't think I was
completely prepared and willing to accept the
consequences of what we were doing, then you're not the
person I thought you were. I. . . " she stumbled, flagging
as her anger snarled together with bare emotional need.
"I thought it. . . meant something, that you cared about
me. Was I wrong? Were you just willing to screw me so
I'd sleep through the night and stop bothering you?"

By the time she was finished, she was nearly shouting
and Mulder looked as though he'd bitten into a ripe, red
apple and swallowed a wasp.

"I. . . no," he stuttered, blanching a shade lighter than
his current indoor pallor at the extent of her wrath.
"That's not why. And I =do= care," he continued, her
challenging glare finally igniting the desire to justify
himself in a way that all their supervisor's threats had
not managed to spark. "Otherwise I would have slapped
you to begin with when you started to lose it. I would
have let you throw up and have bad dreams and lose at
cards until we got out of here, and then I would have
said, 'Next case, Scully, pack your bags because we're
going to North Dakota to check out some lights in the
sky,' and not cared if you were still suffering or not. I
don't regret what happened between us. But damn it,
Scully, the last time I saw you you were covered in blood
and crying in pain and I didn't know what to think! They
wouldn't tell me if you were even awake, let alone discuss
with me your deep, dark thoughts on what it meant to
you to sleep with me!"

She bit her lip, fighting back the tears that seemed to
form all the way down in the pit of her stomach, scouring
a hot path up her throat and turning his edges fuzzy as
they filled her eyes. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "I. . . I'm
sorry."

He pulled her into a soft hug. "I think you and I spend
way too much time telling each other we're sorry about
something."

She sniffled, two escaping tears making tiny dark dots on
his top. "I have a feeling it's a trend that's not going to
stop any time too soon, unfortunately."

"Okay. Let me see if I've got this straight. I've done
nothing wrong, you've done nothing wrong, you forgive
me for not doing anything wrong, I forgive you for not
doing anything wrong, and neither one of us needs to
apologize because we've done nothing to apologize for.
Did I miss anything?"

She laughed shakily. "Pretty good for an opening
statement, Mulder."

He chuckled, the sound vibrating out from his chest to
her cheek, pressed against his heart. "You should hear
my closing argument."

Her body reminded her just then of exactly how low her
energy reserves had fallen; Scully yawned, feeling a
numb heaviness in her arms and legs. "Sorry," she
mumbled, then smiled. "I mean, excuse me."

Mulder stood up, pulling her with him. "Come on, I'll
tuck you in."

She smiled blurrily at him. "Tuck me in, nothing, buster.
You're coming with me."

"Scully. . ."

"Don't argue with me, Mulder. I've been sleeping alone for
two days, and it stinks. Now get over there and warm up
my bed."
He led her across the room and turned down the covers.
"On one condition."

"Oh? What's that?" She crawled in and scooted over to
the wall, making room for him in the narrow bunk.

Mulder climbed in after her, wrapped one arm around
her waist and pulled her firmly against him, snuggling
her back to his chest. She sighed and laid her arms on
top of his, arranging his grip until he cupped a handful
of breast through her shirt. Mulder began teasing her
nipple with the side of his thumb and she hummed her
approval and cuddled further into his embrace.

He kissed her behind one ear and whispered his deadly
ultimatum, his breath tickling the sensitive flesh. "Don't
you dare let me win another game of 'Go Fish' on
purpose, Scully. I'll be watching from now on."

She pressed back with her bottom against his groin,
enjoying his soft, strained exclamation. "Actually, I'm a
card shark. From now on, you're dead meat."

"Not if you keep doing that."

End part 7/9
________________________


SOLITARY CONFINEMENT (8/9)
By Jean Robinson
Disclaimer, etc. in part 1


Eighteen days later, formally declared healthy and
uninfected, they were back in Washington. A.D. Skinner
silently read through Mulder's report, neatly
reconstructed as an official document from his smuggled
handwritten notes, then sat back and eyed the two of
them.

"Do you have anything to add to this, Agent Scully?"

"No, sir."

"It is your opinion that Daniel Trepkos and Jesse O'Neil
are both dead?"

"Yes, sir."

Skinner let them stew a moment longer, then flipped the
folder shut. "All right. That'll be all, Agents."
They left.

**************

"Scully, are you sure about this?"

She reached across from the passenger seat and laid a
hand on his knee. "I told you I'm healed. I'm fine."

Physically, she had recovered as predicted, without
complications. And while they'd remained confined in the
Winthrop facility, Mulder curled up in her bed had kept
the night demons from intruding on her rest.

That she'd started having disturbing dreams again on the
flight home was something she did not intend to discuss
with him.

She was fine.

The only thing she needed was an uninterrupted evening
with her partner, preferably one involving her bathtub,
her bed and as few clothes as possible.

Although it did feel good to be fully dressed again. The
facility staff had taken their measurements and
presented them with sweaters, jeans, underwear and
sneakers for the trip home, all of which fit surprisingly
well and were reasonably stylish. But, she thought,
stretching one leg in the close confines of the car, she'd
practically dived for her closet the minute she'd gotten
home, tossing shoes and pantyhose and suits hither,
thither and yon in a fashion frenzy born of a month of
clothing deprivation.

Give me my power suit and my stacked heels and I can
conquer the world.

They were on their way to her apartment. As discussed in
hushed tones on the plane ride home, lest Suzie, their
perkily overattentive flight attendant, happened by to
inquire if they needed one more ice cube in a plastic cup
already brimming with them or yet another napkin to
add to the pile of six on Mulder's tray table. To continue
what had started out as such a sweetly sensuous
experience and ended in disaster.

After satisfying her garment greed she'd re-stocked her
apartment larder with this night in mind.

White wine, strawberries, Ben & Jerry's New York Super
Fudge Chunk, chocolate sauce and whipped cream.

Life is short, eat dessert first.
Once she'd locked the door behind them, however, all
thoughts of physical hunger evaporated. Mulder, who'd
earlier seemed hesitant, almost reticent, still concerned
about her fragile state of health, grabbed her before she
could even get her coat off.

Bending down, he covered her mouth with his and
plunged his tongue inside.

Scully seized his   arms for balance, wobbling on her heels
with the force of   his newfound desire. Mulder drew back
slightly to feast   on her lips, running his tongue over them
as if to memorize   them.

She was gasping when he finally let her go. "Wow," she
said weakly.

He grinned at her. "I've been wanting to do that all day.
Especially in Skinner's office. When he asked if you had
anything to add it was all I could do to contain myself."

If she hadn't been aroused before, she was now. Just like
that, as if someone flicked an internal switch marked
"hot." Her leg muscles felt mushy, and beneath the
comforting layers of wool and nylon and cotton was a
gathering pool of wetness.

Still, she felt obliged to ask. She was, after all, the
hostess, and her mother had taught her that role well.
"Would you like something to eat?"

And Scully blushed when he licked his lips and pulled
her against him, his fingers fondling her ass through her
clothes. "Oh, there's something I'd like to eat, but you
don't have to cook it," he replied lecherously.

The mental image nearly unhinged her knees; if Mulder
hadn't had such a firm grip on her butt she would have
landed on it on the floor.

"Bedroom," she said huskily, taking his hand to lead
him.

The room was lit by a single reading lamp on the
nightstand by her bed. Their coats were tossed onto a
convenient chair. Scully started to kick off her shoes, but
Mulder stopped her.

"Let me."

"What?"

"Let me undress you, Scully. I want to see you."
Through a heady fog of wanton desire she vaguely
recalled that their single previous encounter had taken
place in the dark; once the lights had come on their
attention had been otherwise diverted.

The thought of letting him strip her naked sent tiny
shivering tremors racing through her body, not all of
them pleasant. However cozy they'd become during a
month of enforced togetherness, there were still some
secrets she preferred not to expose to the light of the
room and his scrutiny.

The unwanted excess pounds that made her soft in
places she had previously kept firm.

The dim, ominous echo of the dreams.

The residual humiliation from being so recently and
continuously poked and prodded like a slab of meat by
so many different doctors.

The freshly-kindled turmoil brooding whether other,
more harmful repercussions from her abduction still
lurked unbeknownst to her.

Scully shoved the ugly thoughts away. This was Mulder,
and he had nothing to do with those unpleasantries.

This was the man who was staring at her clothed body
with worshipful eyes, who would no doubt revere her
naked form with even more idolatry.

No to mention lust.

"All right," she agreed, closing her eyes.

Mulder's hands closed around her upper arms and he
guided her to the edge of her bed. "Sit," he instructed in a
low tone, "and open your eyes, Scully. I want you to look
at me. I want you to watch me."

She obeyed and found him kneeling at her feet, caressing
one slim ankle with his fingertips. He slipped her shoe off
and gently massaged the sole of her foot, taking care to
apply enough pressure so as not to tickle her. "You've got
the cutest little feet, Scully, you really do."

"Flattery will get you everywhere, Mulder." She smiled,
luxuriating in his ministrations. She hadn't worn heels
for so long her toes were cramped and her arches ached.
Mulder eased her other shoe off and repeated the
massage, smoothing away the soreness, restoring the
circulation until both feet tingled warmly.
"Feel better now?" He gave her toes a final squeeze.

"Wonderful." She flexed them gratefully. "If you ever leave
the Bureau, you could have a second career in podiatry."

"I'm only interested in your bunions, Scully, not anyone
else's." He removed his jacket, yanked off his tie and
rolled up the sleeves of his blue dress shirt.

"Hey, no fair. You're supposed to be undressing me, not
yourself," she complained good-naturedly.

Mulder chuckled. "I need a little room to maneuver. Give
me a break, here."

"Well, just this once, I suppose. But don't do it again."

"In that case, allow me to even the score." His hands
danced over her shoulders, sliding her suit jacket off.
"You're one to talk about fairness, when you're wearing a
blouse with one button in the back. I was hoping to
unbutton you down the front one stud at a time. Now I'll
just have to mess up your hair."

Come to think of it, why hadn't she considered that
possibility when she'd dressed herself this morning?
She'd been so gratified to have her own selection of silk
shirts back that she'd picked her outfit based on how
well it flattered her outward appearance, not on how
simple or difficult or arousing it might be for Mulder to
tear off her body with his teeth.

Oh, well. Too late to worry about it now. His fingers
ruffled her hair, searching for the elusive closure at the
back of her neck.

Mental note to self: you need a haircut, big time.

Second mental note to self: stop taking mental notes.

His face was close to hers as he toyed with the little
fabric loop and the small pearl button. She took
advantage of the opportunity and, placing her hands on
his shoulders, captured his lower lip between her teeth.

Mulder jumped, but didn't pull back. Finally completing
his task with her blouse, he slowly spiderwalked his
fingers up her back, drawing the shirt free of her skirt
waistband and up into his fists.

"Mmm. . .Scully?" he mumbled, playfully nipping at her
lips as well.
"What?"

"Lift up your arms."

A second later the blouse was gone, cast to the floor
somewhere beyond the foot of the bed.

"Are your knees all right?" she asked, leaning back on
her hands to arch her back provocatively.

Mulder gazed at her chest with frank admiration. "I can't
even feel them, Scully. Nor do I care."

"But =I= do. The last thing I want is a lame lover."

"I'll get up in a minute, I promise."

She smiled despite herself, feeling her nipples tighten
deliciously at his intense observation and the
unintentional double entendre. "You'd better."

"Dana Scully, you have a dirty mind," he exclaimed in
mock outrage. "For that, you have to be punished. Lie
back right now."

Laughing, she did as bidden, sinking slowly down onto
her bedspread, its quilted softness cool against her
heated skin. Mulder's fingers whispered across her
stomach to reach the zipper on her left hip.

A tug, a wiggle and a shimmy and the skirt was gone,
tossed to the same apparel burial ground as her blouse.
Another slithery slide and her half slip left the party.

"What color do you call these?" Mulder was running his
fingers up and down her calves, sending shivery little
waves of warmth straight up her legs to her breasts.

"Nu-nude," she murmured, draping one stockinged foot
over his shoulder.

"Well, they can't be nude if you're still in them," he
argued reasonably, and she found she could hardly fault
his logic. "So I say we take them off and get the true
nude experience, what do you think?"

"Hmm. . ." She couldn't articulate anything beyond a
vague hum of consent.

With great delicacy, he eased his thumbs   into the elastic
waistband of the pantyhose and carefully   slid them down
her legs. His hands came back to cup her   calves,
kneading them gently, slowly working his   way up to her
knees, when she squealed and jerked.
"Oh, oh. Somebody's ticklish."

Ponderously Scully lifted her head and found him
grinning wickedly at her. "And somebody's going to take
that secret to his grave if he knows what's good for him."

"So it's threats, now, huh?" His maddening touch
continued up to her thighs and she stiffened. "What?" he
said, his former tone of bemusement overridden by
sudden anxiety. "Scully, what?"

She forced herself to relax. "Nothing."

He cautiously resumed his tender touch, smoothing up
the outer side of her legs with his palms. "You've got
gorgeous legs. Don't let anyone tell you differently."

Whether he realized the real source of her discomfort or
not, he did, occasionally, say exactly the right thing to
quiet her self-conscious doubts.

Suddenly impatient with the slow pace up her body, she
grabbed for his shoulders. "Get up here."

Groaning in false agony over his stiff knees, Mulder stood
up between her parted legs, planting his hands on either
side of her rib cage and eyeing her chest with severe
disapproval. "Looks like we're down to the wire, here. The
underwire, in fact." To illustrate his point, he traced the
area in question with one finger, while Scully writhed
and uttered a small, soft moan.

"Pretty as this lace is, Scully, I think I liked you hanging
loose in your Winthrop scrubs even more."

She growled in frustration at the light caress. "Oh, yeah?
And who was swinging side to side all day every time he
took a step?"

He settled on the front clasp; she heaved a breath of
relief. At least her favorite beige bra had one redeeming
feature aside from support. Mulder unsnapped the little
fastener with practiced ease and slowly peeled the bit of
satin and lace away from her body.

"You are beautiful," he whispered reverently, and lowered
his mouth to kiss his way down the slope of one breast,
around the circumference and back to the peak.

She closed her eyes and threw her arms up over her
head, tangling fistfuls of hair as starflashes of color
shimmered behind her lids. "Mulder. . ."
He carefully sucked her nipple into his mouth, darting
around the very tip with his tongue. She dragged her
hands from her own hair and buried them in his as he
suckled her using his lips alone.

"Shall we convene that research seminar now?" he
mumbled against her flesh.

"I. . . you. . . shut up and kiss me, Mulder."

So he did, a lengthy, exquisitely obscene kiss, making
her wonder how anyone's tongue could possibly be that
long and flexible. When he at last unlocked his lips from
hers, she stared at him with glazed eyes and said
breathlessly, "Oh, my God."

"Taking the name of the Lord in vain, Scully. Bad girl.
This calls for a little more serious punishment." With
that he began trailing his mouth down her body, pausing
to kiss her breasts again while she clutched at his biceps
and panted for air.

"Bless me, Father, for I think I'm about to sin."

Mulder dipped his tongue into her navel and she sucked
in her stomach. "The sinning has yet to begin, trust me."

She chuckled, then gasped again as he kissed his way
across the expanse of her abdomen, following the thin
strip of elastic from one hip to the other.

Then down over the material itself to insinuate himself
solidly between her legs.

He nuzzled her with his nose, and her heart
triphammered double-time, sending blood slamming up
into her face and then thundering south.

"Cotton, Scully?" His words vibrated against her through
the thin, damp fabric; the gentle movement of his lips
nearly undoing her. "No sense of romance?"

Her hands, which had been squeezing gobs of the
bedspread as he'd moved out of range of her grip, moved
of their own accord to her breasts to squeeze there
instead. "Cotton. . . cotton breathes, Mulder," she
defended herself and her underwear in a heaving little
burst.

She felt him smile against her. "I'll show you breathing."
He pressed his mouth to her center in an openmouthed
kiss and exhaled slowly. The warm rush of air traveled
through the material, sending an electrified shudder
straight up her spine; she tightened her hands on herself
and her knees around his head with a groan.

"I like that opening statement," he muttered, his voice
now nearly as jagged as hers was, and with that he
grabbed her last remaining article of clothing, skinned it
down her legs and pitched it aside.

Pressing her open with gentle fingers, Mulder proceeded
to demonstrate just how ravenous he was.

Lying still was no longer an option. Not when he was
doing that. . . and that. . . and oh, yes, =that= with his
lips and tongue, wetness upon wetness, probing, gliding,
and stroking into folds and crevices, all of it slow and
languid and galvanizing all at the same time. Her back
arched as he rubbed the flat of his tongue briefly over her
clitoris; she hissed through her teeth and flattened her
palms back against the bedspread, unable to bear the
dual stimulation of his mouth between her legs and her
hands on her breasts any longer.

Mulder took his time, lovingly exploring, tasting and
experimenting, repeating the movements that caused her
to thrash sinuously or sob out an unintelligible word of
gratitude.

The storm was gathering inside her, she could feel it.
Swirling out from the juncture of her thighs, a windstorm
blowing along her nerve endings, threatening gale
warnings, tornadoes, coastal flooding and torrential rain.
She gasped out a last word of encouragement to him,
squeezed her thighs against his ears.

Mulder snared her clit between his lips, pulled, then
stroked her once very lightly with the tip of his tongue.

And Hurricane Scully struck ground zero with category
five strength.

She threw her head back against the mattress, hips
arcing upward against the mouth that still held her
captive. Colored lights blossomed behind her scrunched
eyelids, accompanied by silver and gold sparks, the
whole display more vivid than any holiday fireworks
could ever hope to be. Fire roared from her toes all the
way out to the ends of her hair; some dim part of her
acknowledged that it was scientifically impossible for an
orgasm to cause her hair to curl, although she was sure
she'd just proven that theory to be incorrect.

Gradually she came back to herself, twitching slightly as
tiny aftershocks rippled through her. When she dared to
open her eyes and breathe, Mulder was sitting next to
her, tenderly stroking her cheek with his thumb.
"You're magnificent, Scully," he smiled.

She reached up to return the caress, smiling sleepily.
"I'm hot and sweaty, too. Must be so attractive."

He grabbed her hand and kissed her fingertips. "We can
remedy that, you know."

Her eyes traveled down to the obvious bulge in his dress
pants. "Would you like me to remedy that?"

"Let's do both."

End part 8/9
________________________


SOLITARY CONFINEMENT (9/9)
By Jean Robinson
Disclaimer, etc. in part 1


Laughing, she allowed him to drag her to her feet and
stagger into the bathroom. While the tub filled, she
insisted on undressing him, smoothing her hands over
skin and muscle she'd only touched in darkness before.

She reached for his cock, but Mulder stopped her. "Not
yet." He turned to look at the array of tiny bottles on the
shelf above her tub. "What is all that stuff?"

"Bath oils. They soften and moisturize your skin."

Mulder eyed them dubiously. "All right, but I'm not going
to work reeking of lavender bouquet, am I?"

Scully choose one with an orange blossom perfume and
poured some under the running water. "That would get
people talking. At least this will coordinate with the
soap."

Holding hands, they stepped in together and eased
themselves down with simultaneous, "Ahhhs" as they
settled into the hot water facing each other. Scully slid
down until she was submerged to the neck, stretching
out one cautious foot until. . . there.

Mulder nearly shot out of the tub. "Scully!"

She smirked, sliding her foot slowly back and forth. "Got
you big time."

He relaxed back into the water, leaning his head back
and groaning when she eased her other foot into play,
using the sole of one foot and the top of the other to
apply varying amounts of stimulation, occasionally
flexing her toes to "walk" along his length.

"Scully. . ." He sounded strangled, his voice notched up a
tone higher than usual.

"Yes?"

"I appreciate the. . . effort. . . but you're going to
appreciate the end result a lot. . . more if you. . . stop
right now."

Reluctantly she withdrew her feet. Handing him the
washcloth, she slid forward and whispered, "Wash me,"
enjoying the delighted expression on his face at the
hushed demand.

Her own bathtub. Her own citrus-scented soap. Mulder's
gentle hands sweeping the nubby cloth over her heated,
oily skin.

Life was good.

She washed him in turn, then they climbed out of the
tub and dried each other, rubbing and patting dry all the
secret places they'd so recently uncovered.

Her own towels, smelling of springtime detergent instead
of chlorine and old bleach.

Her own sheets, well-worn, well-washed cotton, soft as a
cloud and twice as cool, instead of starchy, scratchy
bedding that crackled when she moved.

Her own partner, gazing at her with slumberous hazel
eyes, cupping his hand around her nape to pull her to
him for another scorching kiss.

Scully broke away and gently shoved him down on his
back.

"You sure you're ready for this?" Mulder's expression
included some worry under the sheen of lust.

She straddled his hips and, placing her hands on his
chest, leaned down to kiss his lower lip one final time. "I
told you," she whispered throatily, "I'm tougher than I
look."

He grasped her hips to support, rather than guide, her
movements when she raised up and lowered herself
slowly down onto him.
All the way down. She closed her eyes and sighed, her
palms still resting on his chest over his nipples.

And then Scully began to move, carefully at first, then
with greater speed and certainty.

No pain. None at all.

Sensing success, Mulder thrust upward to meet her
downstrokes, his hands running up her sides to fondle
her breasts and pinch her nipples.

God, he felt amazing. No, better than amazing.
Astounding. He filled her, completed her, exulted her.

For the first time since she'd spied Duane Barry's
bruised face outside her window, she felt like a whole
woman.

Almost.

Mulder was nearly there, panting and bucking beneath
her. For that matter, she was close herself, the hurricane
was brewing somewhere south of the border, ready to
blow wildly across her body one more time. She started
to move her hand to help it along, but Mulder beat her to
it. Dragging one hand from her breast, he slipped it
between her legs, tweaking her clit between two fingers
and brushing over the tip with the pad of his thumb.

She tossed her head back, biting her lip as the storm
ripped through her again with even greater intensity,
sending her skyward into the thunderheads where the
lightning sparked and the deluge drenched the
unsuspecting mortals below. She clenched around him
and Mulder followed, thrusting upward one final time
and crying out as his body emptied into hers.

Utterly spent, Scully slumped over him, her insides still
pulsing lightly around his softening cock.

=Now= she felt like a whole woman again.

Mulder wrapped his arms around her and pressed a kiss
to the top of her head. For a few moments the silence
was broken only by the uneven rasp of their breathing.

Finally, "You okay?"

She nodded dreamily against his chest. "Better than
okay. Incredible."

He stroked her back and squeezed her bottom. "I'm glad.
Because you're incredible."

"Mmmm." She was almost asleep; she'd had more
exercise in the last three hours than she'd had in the last
month.

They drifted in and out of sleep; Scully awoke the next
morning to the sound of Mulder checking his messages.

"Anything interesting?" she inquired thickly, pushing her
hair out of her eyes and squinting in the early morning
sunshine.

Mulder turned around from where he stood by the
window, phone in hand. The light was behind him, and
for just a second he was cast totally in shadow, his
features invisible.

And she saw a distorted demonic beast leering at her in
his place.

Scully gasped, yanking up the blanket to cover herself.
Then Mulder moved and the illusion was broken; leaving
her with nothing but a galloping heartbeat and the ocean
roar of her own blood in her ears.

Mulder's attention had been focused on the replay from
the phone and he missed her terrified reaction. He
replaced the handset in its cradle and shrugged. "A few
things I'd like to check on, including a possible case in
Minnesota. An agent from the Minneapolis field office
called."

"Oh." She fought to maintain a neutral tone. Apparently
the monsters from her dreams were not quite finished
tormenting her yet. As she struggled to find the proper
words and facial expression to keep from alerting him to
her distress, she wondered if they ever would be.

Mulder sat down beside her on the bed and touched her
cheek. "How are you this morning?"

She smiled a trifle uneasily and replied, "I'm fine."

End


Author's notes: I decided that if CC can mess with time,
so can I. ;-) So therefore this tale assumes that Moose
and Squirrel really did go through a month of quarantine
before starting out on their next case, which according to
episode datestamps would be "Irresistible." This was my
first foray into the world of NC-17, so if you've enjoyed
this piece, all kudos, cookies, eclairs, lattes and credit
goes to my extremely patient and encouraging beta-
reader, the lovely Dasha K. ("You can do this, Jean." "No,
I can't." "Yes, you can." etc.) If you don't like it, it's my
fault, not hers. Either way, thank you for reading.

Rock my world with feedback to:
jeanrobinson@yahoo.com

				
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