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11:21 PM


Mulder cornered the bounty hunter in the backroom of a bar on M Street. This one was smaller than the others they'd encountered. It has been passing as a woman. Hell, for all he knew, it was female. He'd seen it changing its face as it followed him. Not as easy to spot as you might think, and so not terribly unsafe; after all, who looks for that kind of thing?

He advanced on the smaller figure, pick in hand. Never left homewithout it anymore.

The thing just smiled contemptuously at him.

The fight was over almost before it started. It came at him like a tiger, thudding into his stomach with a force that knocked the wind out of his lungs. He was exhausted and bruised from his most recent battles,and it was much stronger than a human. It knocked his weapon from his hand and threw him onto a stool. Then it jumped up, straddling his legs,
pinning his arms against the wall.

It watched him pant with anger and terror for a minute, then laughed, delicate and carefree. "Has anyone ever told you you're beautiful when you're angry?"

He refused to reply.

"I like you, Agent Mulder, really I do. I could do things to you you wouldn't believe. You could consider it research. They sent me to watch you because I asked, because I liked you so much."

He just stared at her . . . it.

"Don't like the body? I can be anyone you want, Fox — I'd like to think we can be on a first-name basis — as many women as you want. I'm the only real infinite variety you'll ever find." And suddenly it was a tall, leggy brunette — a stunning Asian woman with hair down past her waist — a blonde who could have stepped out of one of his magazines — a catalogue of women, a torrent of women (and at least one lithe boy, he thought) flooding
by him.

"Nothing you like?" she pouted. "I know . . . I can be the woman of your dreams, Fox, the only one that matters." As she spoke, she shifted again, more slowly this time, and by the end of her sentence she was Dana Scully. Face, voice, even the smell was right. It was such a violation, he wanted to scream.

But his treacherous body began to respond to all the cues it knew so well. It was her scent that was fatal, so clean and cool and a little cinnamony. She leaned in further, brushing his lips with Scully's, and, when he inhaled sharply, seizing his mouth and kissing him deeply. And he kissed her back, just as greedily.

When she pulled away, smug satisfaction on Scully's face, he looked at her for a moment. "Isn't it humiliating to have to pretend to be someone else to get a man to want you?"

She slapped him, hard. He used his freed hand to push the (momentarily) quite small thing off of him and scrambled off the stool.

"Fine," she said, still Scully. "You can go. Just remember, I could turn you inside out with pain or pleasure. I hope you're happy with what you chose." She slipped from the room, face changing to someone nondescript as she moved.

He sat heavily down again, trying to compose himself. Then he pulled out his phone and hit the first memory key. "Scully? I have a story to tell you."

* * *

FBI Basement
Next Day

Mulder came into work still agitated. He emanated discomfort and anger like a dark star. She tried to work for a while, but it was hopeless.

"I don't understand," she finally said. "Why is this incident last night making you so upset? You had a fight, you lost — it's not like you shouldn't be used to it by now — so what else happened?" These past few weeks had him awfully close to the edge, she thought.

He stared at his desk. "It . . . propositioned me," he choked out. She thought that she might be able to feel the heat rising from him if she were a few feet closer.

"What, you're not used to it?" She needed to joke; the fabric of the unspoken understandings between them was so frayed of late.

"Not from a thing like that!" No humor whatsoever in his voice. Suddenly, she understood, as if a current had passed from him to her — it had propositioned him, all right, but not as a stranger. Phoebe? Bambi? Good God, had it offered him Samantha? And then she re-evaluated his refusal to look at her, and thought about holding him in that hospital room. It had offered him something he very much didn't want to want.

She knew how he felt.

The desire she felt was like the urge that often gripped her when she was driving on the Beltway — to drive so fast that she'd lose control and plow into a gray stone wall. She wanted him like she wanted to open a bottle of scotch and keep drinking until the noise in her head went away. She wanted him like she wanted to punch through plate-glass windows she walked by, just to see what it would feel like. If it would feel like anything.

He'd abandoned her before. He'd do it again next time he thought he'd move faster without her. But you're ok, aren't you, Scully? And in the meantime he'd be just as caring and seductive and guilt-ridden about the last time as ever. Once she'd thought that they might be able to have a loving relationship — a romance like the ones she used to read. But as they lost more and more connections with the world and were reduced to relying on each other, the fantasy had slipped away from her. Her desperate devotion, her insistence on backing up a man whose idea of tenderness was a hand on her back before he left her alone, couldn't be called "being in love." It was just that he was the last part of her that assured her she existed.

She saw that he was still frozen at his desk, shoulders pulled in as if to avoid a blow. She stood and walked over to him, putting her hand on his shoulder. Deliberately ignoring his flinch. "It'll be all right."

She stood there, gaining strength from the feel of him beneath her. Poisonous strength, that would weaken her later, but she needed it anyway. Before I met you, I could tell the difference between pleasure and pain. I told you that you were like a flower, but you're more like a knife. I know I should pick up the handle, but I always end up grabbing for the shiny sharp blade. And whose fault is that? The pain in her chest was, she thought, the vacuum where her heart used to be, pulling at her to make her collapse from the inside.

She smiled bitterly behind him. "Mulder, you'll get your chance. Make the report as convincing as possible so they'll let us get back to tracking those things. And next time, we'll catch it . . . together."

He sighed and shrugged — her signal to release his shoulder.

"You're right, Scully. Let's get back to work."

Something's going to break soon, Mulder. Hell of it is, I think I'd kill myself just to take you down with me, to know you feel it too.

* * *

7:58 PM
Mulder's apartment

The doorbell rang. Mulder pulled his legs off the couch and onto the floor with a groan and walked stiffly to the door. Scully waited patiently, coat folded over her arm, for him to admit her. She was wearing a form-fitting T-shirt and faded jeans which dropped low enough to bare her midriff.


"Hi, Fox." He hesitated, then motioned her in. "I thought you might want to talk."

"Away from the office?"

"You're right. Ah, how can I say this?" He turned away from her, running his hands through his hair, worsening the damage he'd already done on the couch. "I told you that the shapeshifter offered to use her talent to . . . satisfy me." She nodded, impassive. He dropped back onto the couch, looking away. "I didn't tell you who she offered me." In a rush: "She offered me you, Dana. She said . . . she said she knew you were the woman of my dreams. And when she kissed me . . . I knew she was right. Please, don't be angry with me."

He heard her come to the couch and sit next to him. She placed a gentle hand on his leg, just the briefest touch, but it sent a shudder through his body. "Fox . . . look at me."
He turned, breathless.

"Is that really how you feel?"

"For a long time." His voice held the honesty of a man who had nothing left but the truth.

She smiled tenderly and reached up to caress his cheek. And then she kissed him, forced to rise off the couch to reach him, just enough off balance to be pulled into his arms easily. It was a slow, exploratory kiss — would this really be as good as I imagined? — until he concluded that, yes, it was, and he bent her down until her back pressed into the couch and her legs left the floor. He pulled back to look at her. Her eyes were sparkling and she was grinning like a madwoman. With one smooth motion, she crossed her arms and lifted off her T-shirt, revealing a plain cotton bra. He looked at her with tenderness and not a little awe, as if he could barely believe his good fortune. But his desire reasserted itself, and he followed her lead, stripping off his sweatshirt and the ratty T-shirt underneath. She put her hand to his chest. "I want you so much," she said.

"How could I deny you anything?" he asked, offering a grin to match hers. "Give me a second." He lifted her legs so that he could get off the couch, shot out of the room, and returned a moment later with a box of condoms.

"Dana?" he asked, suddenly uncertain.

"Come here, Fox." He sighed and complied. Quickly they shed their remaining clothes; though he wanted to caress every inch of her, their urgency was too great, and when she begged him to make love to her, he complied, entering her with a force that should have hurt. But she simply shuddered in pleasure and ground herself against him.

His orgasm was so powerful that it nearly made him lose consciousness. When he could think again, he saw that he'd bitten her shoulder. Red tooth marks stood out on her creamy skin, clashing with the freckles scattered over her shoulders. Reaching up to touch the bite, which at least hadn't broken the skin, he looked at her guiltily. "Did I hurt you?"

"I don't feel it," she replied. "I like you like this."

He busied himself exploring the parts of her body he'd neglected before. The soft, perfect skin that stretched from her wrist to the crook of her elbow. Her hipbone, jutting out from its cushion of flesh. Her tiny, perfect feet, with the nails painted an astonishing rose.

When he was fully recovered, he picked her up and laid her over the arm of the sofa. The position allowed his hands to roam her body, kneading and stroking, until she was begging.
"Please," she cried.

"Please what, Dana?" he whispered in her ear. "Do you want me to fuck you, Dana?"

"Yes, please," she nearly sobbed.

"Please what?"

She whispered it in a schoolgirl's voice. "Please fuck me, Fox."

And he drove inside her. Each place he touched her turned him on more. She screamed when she came this time, and he yelled out intriumph as he followed her.

They stayed locked together, her limp over the sofa arm, him bracing himself with his arms, barely able to keep from falling over, face buried in her hair, for a long time. The only sound was their panting. Finally, he straightened up and looked her over again. "Can we take this into the bedroom?"

"I thought you'd never ask."

He took her into his arms and carried her into the bedroom. "A bed," she murmured, sounding almost surprised. He set her down on it carefully.

"Now close your eyes," he commanded, "and raise your hands."

Shooting him a game-but-uncertain look, she complied. She heard clicks, then, "Ok, you can look," and opened her eyes to find herself handcuffed to the bed. Mulder was holding his pick to her neck.

"Fox, you're kinkier than I thought."

"Shut up. I want some answers now."

"How long have you known?"

"Since you opened your mouth."

"Much kinkier. I could really get to enjoy this. How did you know?"

"Scully would never have called me Fox. And she wouldn't have dressed like that. It was just too easy."

"I didn't hear any complaints. Double standards, that's the only kind you men have."

"Don't push me."

"What are you going to do? You can hardly hope to explain to anyone else why you've cuffed your partner naked to your bed."

"I'm not going to kill you. As far as I know, you personally have done nothing but follow me around. And I still believe in justice. But I'm willing to hurt you."

"What do you want to know?"

"Where are they? Samantha, the children, the hive."

"I don't know." He pressed the tip into the soft flesh at the back of her neck. "Really. You can hurt me all you want. It won't help. Don't you think they knew you might catch me? You're a well-respected man, Fox."

He saw something suspiciously like tears in her eyes. "Believe me or not, I wish I could tell you. There's no reason to jerk you around like this. It's simply cruelty. But I'm just doing my job. It's a lot safer that way. I can't help you, even if I might want to."

He stared at her, grimacing in frustration. Finally, he came to a decision, retracting the pick and turning away.

"Fox?" Her soft voice, Scully's voice, using the tone he heard in his best dreams, sent a tremor down his spine. He turned back, face completely blank.

"Once more, for old time's sake? I'm all tied up. You'll be safe."

He flinched as if struck, then reached for the keys. "Sorry," he said, "the thrill is gone."

She pouted. "Are you sure? I give a great blow job."

He actually raised his hand to hit her. "You should shrivel up and die for taking her shape. Don't say those things."

"'Please fuck me, Fox,'" she mocked in that little-girl's voice. He unlocked the cuffs and wrenched her hands from them.

"Get out. Next time I won't be so generous."

"Fox, how will you know when next time is?"

"Get out!" he cried. Raising herself from the bed, she shrugged. With Scully's dignity even in her nakedness, she glided back to the living room and, he assumed, put on her clothes. He heard the front door close.

Then he sank to the bed, head in his hands. That was the dumbest thing I've ever done, he thought, not quite sure which part of the night he was thinking about. Oh, God — Scully! He couldn't stand the couch, not tonight. So he curled himself into a ball on the side of the bed she hadn't been on, and tried mightily to sleep.

* * *
* * *

The next morning
Dana Scully's apartment

Special Agent Dana Scully examined her reflection critically. Lipstick, perfect. Foundation — well, wouldn't stand up to a very close inspection. Mom always said, you can cover up redness, but bumps show through. She'd just better hope that the next few days wouldn't see her dunked in water or otherwise unable to control her appearance. Mulder would barely be able to look at her today, anyway.

Calling him "Fox" had been the obvious move.

The small abrasions on her wrists, the welts on her back, and the bite mark on her shoulder were safely concealed beneath her long-sleeved shell and jacket. As she turned to go, she remembered his voice: Sometimes the need to mess with their heads outweighs the millstone of humiliation. She whispered to herself, "More than you'll ever know."


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